What does sin do to us?
Does it make us dirty? Does it put us in a sort of spiritual detention because we've broken a rule?
This is important to understand. If we are taught not to sin, but rather, to be holy, we should understand the consequences of sin.
Our first reading starts right in the aftermath of the first sin. At the serpent's instigation, Adam and Eve have just disobeyed the Lord's one commandment for them and eaten from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Now they find themselves in a new situation.
Before, they had lived in innocence and trust. Everything they needed was provided for and they lived in harmony with God, each other, and themselves.
How do things look after that original sin? They are afraid of God, they are self-conscious, and they immediately come into conflict with each other. Notice Adam's response when God asked him what happened: he blames Eve but also blames God. Though he was right with Eve during the serpent's temptation, he says: "The woman whom you put here with me— she gave me fruit from the tree, and so I ate it." [emphasis mine]
When sin came into the world, the community God had created was immediately broken. That's what sin does: it separates us from God, from each other, and even from ourselves.
But God did not give up. Even in those first moments of a fallen world, he make a promise of salvation: "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers;
he will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel." Other translations even make it "... he will crush your head" and sometimes it is "she will crush your head" - something the Church has seen as pointing to Mary, the New Eve.
However it is translated, we can see that God has a plan. That plan came to fruition with the coming of Jesus. In today's gospel reading, we see how our savior reverses the effects of original sin.
This is a rich gospel story, but I see two important points that tie back to what we heard from Genesis.
First, Jesus' ministry of exorcism. The scribes from Jerusalem, some of Jesus' usual opponents, say that Jesus' power to cast out demons must come from Satan himself.
Jesus' response is clear: how could Satan work against himself? What is really happening is the fulfillment of the promise God made back in the garden. Jesus is the one who defeats the "strong man" and plunders his house. He not only defeats Satan, but wins us back and sets us free from sin.
Jesus still does this work in the Church today. Yes, it happens in exorcisms, but we are freed from evil in a more familiar way through the sacraments: when we are baptized, when we receive the Eucharist, when we confess our sins and are forgiven by God. The sacraments have so much power to set us free if we come to them with open hearts.
That is why He warns the crowd of the danger of what the scribes are doing. In the face of salvation, they accused Jesus of being evil. The unforgivable sin Jesus mentions is hardening your heart and refusing to recognize God's saving actions - you can't be forgiven if you refuse forgiveness!
After showing that He has come to crush Satan, His enemy, Jesus also begins to heal what was broken in the garden after original sin. When He is told that His family is looking for Him, Jesus replies, "Who are my mother and my brothers?" And looking around at those seated in the circle he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother."
Is Jesus rejecting His family - rejecting Mary? Of course not! Name another human being who did God's will more perfectly than her!
Jesus is bringing the rest of us into the family. By doing God's will, we are elevated into a greater community. The broken relationships that came about because of sin are healed and made even more powerful through Jesus. Our family doesn't just consist of the people related to us by blood, but all those who are united by the Holy Spirit in the Body of Christ.
Sin separates and isolates us. The grace that comes to us in Jesus brings us together - with ourselves, with each other, and with God. We can be together again without the suspicion, shame, and fear of sin. When we trust in God's mercy and follow His commands, the wounds of sin are undone.