“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” We’re all familiar with that expression, and it’s generally good advice. But of course things do break, and that presents us with a choice: We can either throw the broken thing away, or we can fix it.
When making our decision, we usually ask ourselves: “Is it worth fixing?” We have to do a “cost-benefit” analysis. If it’s not worth fixing, we toss it. But if it is, usually the best we can hope for is that after it’s fixed, it will be pretty much like it used to be. But that’s often not possible. Usually, when we fix something, we have to accept that it’s never going to be quite the same. It’s going to be a little bit weaker; a little less attractive; a little less valuable.
Think about a car that’s been in an accident. We call the insurance company, and a claims adjustor looks it over. He or she will either declare it “totaled”- a complete loss not worth fixing. Or, the decision will be made to repair it. But after the work’s done, the car’s value will be less. Anyone who would buy it would see that accident on the Carfax report, and lower their best offer by hundreds or thousands.
Be it a car or whatever, we never expect that something that’s been fixed is going to better than it was before it was broken. Yet that is exactly what has happened for us, thanks to what God has done in the death and resurrection of his Son- what we are celebrating on this Easter morning.
Our Easter celebration actually began last night, at the Easter Vigil. In darkness broken only by the dim glow of the newly-lit Easter Candle, a beautiful and ancient hymn called the Exsultet was sung. This hymn includes one rather curious line which exclaims: “O happy fault! O necessary sin of Adam, which gained for us so great a Redeemer!”
It’s not typical for us to use the word “happy” in reference to sin, because there’s nothing happy about it. Sin hurts: It hurts us, it hurts others, and it strains, and sometimes even breaks, our relationship with God. There’s was especially nothing happy about Adam’s original sin. It led to the fall. It led to death. Original innocence was lost. Human nature was broken.
What’s “happy” about Adam’s sin was not the unhappy event itself, but what God did in response to it. He saw that his children, created in his image and likeness, were broken. And in his love for us, he didn’t throw us away. We’re much too precious to him. Instead, God decided to “fix” us; or to use the language of our faith, he decided to “save” us.
That, in and of itself, should be enough to make us overflow with joy and gratitude on this day; it’s more than enough justification for all the Easter “Alleluias” we shout and sing. But what’s even more remarkable, it that when God acted to fix us, he made it possible for us to be even better than before we were broken in the first place.
The Bible’s stories of creation speak of Adam and Eve as sharing a wonderful friendship with God. They enjoyed harmony with Him, with each other, and indeed with all of creation. Theologically speaking, this was a state of “original holiness and justice.” Sometimes we refer to it as “paradise.”
Sin, of course, ruined all this. It made us a broken people; it soured our friendship with God. But Jesus’ death and resurrection fixed it. It makes possible the forgiveness of our sins and offers the hope of eternal life. Traditional Christian language refers to this as the “Atonement.” If we break this word into thirds, we get “At-One-Ment.” Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, it’s possible for us to be “one” with God.
But what does it mean to be “one” with God? It does mean that the brokenness caused by sin has been fixed, to be sure. But being “one” with God means more than that. It means that you and I can be like God. What we were created for is great indeed; what we have been saved for is even better. According to the Catechism, our first ancestors were created “in a state that would be surpassed only by the glory of the new creation in Christ.” And that glory is that we can share God’s very nature; through the sacraments, especially Baptism and Eucharist, we participate in God’s own life and love, and hope to share it perfectly for all eternity. God in Christ assumed our humanity so we could share his divinity. Or as St. Irenaeus wrote some eighteen centuries ago, “The Son of God became man so that we might become God.” We have been fixed all right; but now we can hope to be far better than we ever were before.
Sound like a fluffy, pious dream? Think of relationships you’ve been in or known of that have been broken somehow, perhaps because of a hurt or misunderstanding, or through a crisis or a betrayal. For some people, such challenges might be a “deal-breaker.” But in others, they can actually lead to an improved, more intimate relationship. The “elephant in the room” finally gets discussed and resolved; sorrow is expressed and forgiveness is shared; shattered trust is rebuilt and strengthened. There’s pain and heartbreak, to be sure. But it’s followed by relief, healing, and hope. It’s almost like the relationship had to die so it could rise up to a new, better life.
The new, better life Jesus won for us is what we celebrate today. Think of it with every new flower or blossom you see; be reminded of it with every egg and fuzzy yellow chick; taste it when you receive the Body and Blood of Christ on your lips. And let the thought of it fill your heart with joy, this day, and always.