Being Catholic Means Being Human

One thing that makes human beings totally different than other creatures is their ability to reason. Because of this, Aristotle, perhaps the greatest Greek philosopher, defined man as a “rational animal.” Contrary to what it seems, this designation isn’t meant to degrade the value of human life, but rather enhance it – human nature is endowed with the ability to reason toward the truth along with the capacity for sensation, as are other animals. Really, being a rational animal is a compound of two separately good things; together, they compliment each other nicely and allow humans to seek truth through both intellectual and sensual means.

Where am I going with this?

When I was writing yesterday’s post, it made me think that, along with believing Catholicism is some sort of magically formulated religion, it seems people often think one of two extremes about the faith: either all things physical are totally unequipped to help us see the Truth (Jesus Christ), or physicality is the only thing which can bring us to this Truth. Although both ends of this spectrum are commonly adopted by individual believers, both positions are absolutely false. Follow along, if you will…

First off, let’s set one obvious fact of our faith straight: “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son” – in human form – so that we might come to love Him more and more. The Incarnation of Jesus Christ is the first proof that our humanity is beautiful in its totality. If it weren’t, would God Himself have chosen to adopt it? Of course not! The mixture of sensitive and spiritual parts is exactly what makes man so lovable; we live in a world where we not only experience the foretaste of God’s beauty in created things, but also freely choose to accept His Love as a result. In short, Jesus was only able to become man because man’s nature is inherently good.

Second main point: even though man is inherently good in his nature, the Fall from grace experienced as a result of Original Sin caused something known as (quite appropriately) “fallen human nature.” Jesus was able to become man because man was created good, but he chose to become man because man had freely fallen from his original goodness and was in need of Salvation. You may wish to read that last sentence again…actually, I’ll just write it again. Jesus was able to become man because man was created good, but he chose to become man because man had freely fallen from his original goodness and was in need of Salvation. This basic truth is the underpinning reality of our entire faith as Catholic Christians.

Third point: Jesus utilized the fullness of His human nature in saving mankind. Obviously, Christ didn’t just come and preach the Gospel and then vanish. He didn’t descend as a pure spirit upon a few lucky guys during the reign of Caesar Augustus and say, “Just be good, OK?” No. Jesus came in the flesh, and He saved us through the free offering of His flesh. By physically dying on the cross and being physically raised to life at the Resurrection, the fullness of human nature was redeemed from its fallen state, and was again imbued with sanctifying grace – the stuff that allows us to get to heaven. By using what was imperfect, Jesus redeemed the order of creation and permitted mere mortals to follow Him into the celestial Paradise.

All of this is pretty fundamental; every Catholic should be aware (to some degree) of the things mentioned above. But, as Christians seeking to know more about our faith and our God (which I’m sure you all are, since you are so kindly reading this post), we need to take the next step in understanding, “Why is the fullness of my humanity important in coming to know the Lord through the Catholic faith?” Quite the question, and hopefully next time I can provide a decent beginning to what will be an exciting response. Stay tuned…

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    # by Anonymous - July 21, 2007 at 5:40 PM

    Thanks Andy. Your analysis is profound and to the point.

    In Christ,
    Ted Martin