“Where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more” (Romans 5:20). This is a powerful reflection on the relationship between transgression (sin) and God’s grace. At the beginning of this section of chapter 5 we read: “But the gift is not like the transgression. For if by that one person’s (Adam’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” (verse 15).

Through Adam sin and death came into the world. But through Jesus Christ, sin and death were conquered once and for all, forever. When we look back over the history of mankind, whether we look at it through the eyes of the Scriptures, or through the secular historical accounts, the overwhelming theme is the human failure to be fully human. In the secular histories, we see endless examples of war and injustices of every kind. We also see moments of glory, of growth in civilization and all of its elements, but just as often we see those moments tarnished, or destroyed by humankind’s seemingly endless capacities for selfishness, greed, and lust for power.

From the second chapter of Genesis to the crucifixion of Jesus, and the missionary journeys of Paul, we also see a profound record of man’s inhumanity toward man, of our failure to remain faithful to God. But there is a difference between the two accounts of history. While they both reveal our sinfulness, only the Scriptures reveal that even for all of that sinfulness, indeed, despite it, God’s love has never abandoned us. We see in the Old Testament, even though the children of God turned away from him on countless occasions, he remained faithful to them. Over and over again, he came to their rescue, leading them out of slavery in Egypt, restoring them to Jerusalem after their long exiles. Even though the people wandered away from his path, turned to idols, and neglected the law, he still fed them, still heard their cries for help.

All of those millennia of sin could not crush the love of God for his creation. In the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, the words of today’s verse, “Where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more,” take on a more powerful meaning. When Jesus hung on the cross, suspended between the rejection of the world and the silence of the Father, he let go of his all, his life, his will, everything. He gave it all up, in order to destroy sin and death forever. Through that one Man, Jesus, grace overflowed, rushed over the world like a cleansing rain. Sin and death no longer enslave us. The grace of God flowed through the wounds of Jesus on the cross. This overflowing of grace remains with us today. Yes, we still sin, but because of our faith, we know that God’s cleansing, life-giving forgiveness is available to us in every moment. Jesus’ self-sacrifice on our behalf challenges us to die to sin now, to turn away from temptation, and to turn more and more to God for the graces we need to be able to do so. And, in faith, we know that, if our hearts are sincere when we call on him, an overflowing abundance of graces will be given to us to enable us to stay true to his commandments.

Lord, We know that we are sinners, yet our deepest desire is to turn away from our sinful ways. We yearn to fall into your loving arms, to be freed from our fears and false desires. In faith we know that you are rich in mercy and slow to anger, that your love is unconditional. We know too our weakness and cry out to you for your help. By your grace, help us to conquer our undisciplined passions. We pray these things in you name, Jesus. Amen!