In today’s Gospel, John sees Jesus and exclaims: “Look there! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” He doesn’t say “the sins of the world;” he uses the singular: “the sin of the world” (peccatum in Latin, ten hamarten in Greek).
We all sin, and we sin in different ways and at different times. We can speak of “sins” (in the plural), but all our sins are of a piece: they are different manifestations of our sinfulness. The liturgy alternates between these two perspectives, acknowledging that “you take away the sin of the world” (Glory to God) and also that “you take away the sins of the world” (Lamb of God). The recently developed concept of social sin is an attempt to articulate the sinfulness of humankind. It isn’t just that we do wrong things: the fact is that we are basically “off center.” It is our “original” sin that matters most, our fundamental option for ourselves over and above God. The rest is expression, like coloring the picture or connecting the dots.
The wonder of Jesus is that he takes away not only the sins but also the sin. He fills us with the Spirit of sinlessness, who will “make us one in peace and love.”
The disturbances which so frequently occur in the social order result in part from the natural tensions of economic, political, and social forms. But at a deeper level they flow from man’s pride and selfishness, which contaminate even the social sphere.
Vatican II, Constitution on the Church in the Modern World,