Tonight, Easter vigil Masses will open with the chanting or reading of the "Exultet," an ancient proclamation of the resurrection of Christ that declares, "O truly necessary sin of Adam, destroyed completely by the death of Christ! O happy fault that earned so great, so glorious a Redeemer!"
I always find this moving. Adam and Eve sinned, but God was not limited by this, using their fault to fully reveal the depths of his love and mercy, sending Christ to redeem us.
Many years ago, I had a supervisor I butted heads with. I was a feisty 22-year-old who had about twice as much attitude and confidence than I did common sense and experience. Fresh out of college, I felt savvy in the newest ways of doing things. My boss, in my opinion, clung to the past and was short-tempered and impatient about my new ideas.
I was about to be humbled. As I vented my frustration to a colleague, I struggled to coax the last bits of toner from the photocopier I was using to prepare handouts. As a last resort, I pulled the toner cartridge out of the copier and gave it a vigorous shake.
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This did, in fact, release the ink. It released it all over the room.
I was covered in toner. The copier was covered in toner. The handouts were sheets of black. Everything -- books, office supplies, electronics and furniture -- was covered in toner. It was like an ink bomb had gone off in the center of the room.
My co-workers stared at me, afraid to move while the cloud of ink settled and my overly confident brain tried to process the enormity of the mistake I had just made.
Then, to my horror, my boss picked that exact moment to drop by and see the catastrophe I had just caused. Still holding the toner cartridge, standing in the middle of the mess, tears began to well up in my eyes from both tremendous humiliation and the realization that I'd never get those stains out of my skirt.
"What happened?" he asked.
I explained what I had done and braced myself for a lecture.
"Well, there's no use crying over spilled toner, is there?" he said kindly. "Do you need any help cleaning up?"
Shocked, I shook my head and realized I hadn't given my boss enough credit. I had messed up. He could see I had messed up. Yet he didn't use it as an opportunity to point out that maybe there were other things I didn't fully understand (there were). He simply forgave me with a kind word and even helped me fix the disaster I found myself in.
"O happy fault ..."
I've often heard people lament their sin is too serious, too humiliating or just too bad. They've gone too far from God to return. Yet the beauty of Christ's death and resurrection is that it is God's reaching out to love us not in our perfection, but even when we had rejected him.
Did I regret the mess I made in the office that morning? You bet. It took forever to clean up and no amount of detergent could save that skirt. However, if I hadn't caused the great Toner Spill of '05, I never would have learned my boss could be so forgiving and understanding.
We can think our sin is too awful for God. That whatever we've done, it's cut us off from any possibility of a relationship. Yet the beauty of the death and resurrection of Christ is he didn't die for us because we're perfect. It was our sin that brought us "so glorious a redeemer."