Tuesday of week 29 of Ordinary Time – First Reading


Commentary on Rom 5:12, 15, 17-19, 20-21

We move on today to a different theme in this letter: the role of Jesus in our salvation from sin. A contrast is made between Adam, our “first parent” and Christ. Adam brought sin and death into the world; Christ brought righteousness and life. These two persons also sum up the message of the Letter up to this point. Adam stands for man’s condemnation and Christ for the ‘justification’ of the believer. “It was through one man that sin came into the world, and through sin death, and thus death has spread through the whole human race because everyone has sinned.” That man, of course, is Adam. Paul is referring, obviously, to the creation story in Genesis where the Man and the Woman, clearly disobeying the instructions they had received from God, ate the fruit (not specified as an apple!) of the tree, significantly called the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil”. Significantly, because it was only after they had eaten the fruit that they had, for the first time, a sense of evil, sin and guilt indicated by a newly-felt shame of their nakedness and their hiding from God. Even if today we might not historically identify the “Man” and the “Woman” as actual people, they represent the whole human race. There is no doubt that through human activity sin, which is a turning away from God, came into the world and continues to flourish in all of us. Through his disobedience, Adam, who sired every human being, infected all those descended from him with sin and hence also with death. Sin divides man from God and this separation effectively is ‘death’, a death that is spiritual and eternal, and of which physical death is the symbol. “In Adam all have sinned.” This happened either by our sharing in the sin of Adam or else because of each one’s personal sins. There is none of us who can claim never to have sinned. We are born into an environment where sin can be found everywhere and in every person. It touches us from the moment we are born. And, through our personal sins, we join with Adam in his rebellion against God. However, “if death came to every single person through the offence of one man, how much greater an effect the grace of God has had, coming to so many and so plentifully as a free gift through the one man Jesus Christ!” No matter how great the sin, God’s grace is infinitely greater in nullifying the effects of Adam’s sin. God’s saving love is a free gift given to all in abundance. “It was by one man’s offence that death came to reign over all, but how much greater the reign in life of those who receive the fullness of grace and the gift of saving justice through the one man, Jesus Christ.”

“One man’s offence brought condemnation on all humanity; and one man’s good act has brought justification and life to all humanity.” This is the key statement expressing the meaning of the whole passage. Condemnation came through the disobedience of one person, Adam, representing all of us, and it is the single act of one Man, Jesus Christ, who by his death and resurrection brought justification and life to all. ‘Justification’ means, as we have said, our total restoration into a life of union with God, a union which is accessed by our believing in Jesus as Lord and Saviour. “Just as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience are many to be made upright.” For this restoration of our relationship with God we do not have to wait until the Final Judgement. Being reborn in Christ is a process that continues from the moment we first begin to believe in Jesus as Lord. So “however much sin increased, grace was always greater; so that as sin’s reign brought death, so grace was to rule through saving justice that leads to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Nothing we have ever done and nothing we could ever do by ourselves could have undone the sin which penetrates every corner of our world and of our existence. It could only happen by the grace, the freely-given love of God, which has been poured into our hearts (as Paul says earlier in this chapter, not included in our readings). ‘Grace’ as we saw is the love of God given to us spontaneously by God without our meriting it in any way. Once we allow that love to take over our lives, its power will be greater than sin. Sin and love are totally incompatible. “Where there is love, there is God.” Where there is sin, love is absent. It is ‘grace’ too which brings that ‘saving justice’, the saving power of God which transforms our lives and is the beginning of that eternal life which Jesus our Lord wants us to share with him. Jesus does not just “cover over” our sins. He makes it possible for our hearts to be flooded with his Spirit effecting a real inner change and the possibility of replacing sin with goodness. But it is always his work and never ours alone.

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