The long lines of people waiting to receive the visible sign of the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday testify to the profoundly real sense of personal failing, of sin, that is part of the human experience. Someone once referred to the "accumulated moral grime" that we incur as we make our way through life. Even when we make all kinds of resolutions to do better in the areas of failure that plague us, we too often experience the failings of the human condition. In Lent, we recognize that although baptism has washed away original sin, nonetheless, its effects endure and thus we do not always "get it right."

Original sin is probably the only doctrine of the Church that is empirically proved every day. Pick up the morning newspaper, turn on the television or radio or download the latest breaking news, and we are all too aware of the "human condition." We not only do not always "get it right" in our dealings with one another, but too often we choose not to get it right. This is what original sin is all about.

The United States Catholic Catechism for Adults tells us that "each one of us is heir to Adam and Eve. Their sin shattered God's created harmony, not only for them but also for us. We experience the effects of Original Sin in our daily life. This explains why it is so difficult to do good or to do what we should" (Chapter 6).

The disharmony in the human condition is not only personal and rooted in the struggle of each one of us to lead a good life, but it is also reflected throughout the universe in which we live. We are constantly tempted to exploit, utilize and manipulate others and the world in which we live in a way that is not in conformity with God's plan. This imbalance entered the world through original sin, which is passed on to and taints each of us.

Saint Paul describes the consequences of original sin within us as a struggle between the old and new person. The old person is interested only in the selfish man or woman who dwells within each of us. The life of the new person, baptized and alive in God's grace, is directed outward to God, Christ and our neighbors. This struggle deep within our human nature has continued from the days of Adam and Eve's sin. Our baptism washes away original sin, but its effects still remain.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that after the first, original sin the world was virtually "inundated by sin" (401). Yet we are not lost. We are not left to our own devices. Saint Paul, in writing to the Corinthians, reminds us that just as in Adam all people die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life - a fullness of life, a new creation already beginning in us through grace (cf. 1 Corinthians 15).

In his Letter to the Romans, Saint Paul draws the same contrast between sin and God's grace, "For if by that one person's transgression the many died, how much more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one person Jesus Christ overflow for the many" (Romans 5:15). In rather dramatic language, Saint Paul continues, "Miserable one that I am! Who will deliver me from this mortal body? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 7:24-25).

This is the message we proclaim when we face the mystery of sin, the reality of original sin and the problems of the human condition that lead us to personal sin. Just as Adam brought sin, disharmony, confusion, disruption and struggle into our lives, so too now Christ, the new Adam, gives us grace, redemption, new life and salvation. It is in Jesus Christ that we now find the roots and beginnings of the new creation. He came to restore what was out of balance, to bring harmony where it had been destroyed. Jesus came to give us the newness of life in grace that begins to restore our relationship with God, which will some day lead to full communion with God in glory. It is for this reason that we identify Christ as the new Adam. Grace is the beginning of a new creation for all of those baptized into Christ.

When we face daily frustrations and struggle to be good, we need to recall the teaching of the Church that we have the power to triumph over sin because we have Christ's grace within us. We have the capacity to be victorious, but we must face it every day with our Lord and Savior, the new Adam, Jesus Christ.