We humans have lost our identity. As a people, we no longer have the answers to these questions:
- Who am I?
- What is the purpose to life?
- Who is God?
- Why was I created?
These questions and the corresponding answers directly effect what we believe, how we view life, and how we live. The root of the issue is this – without an identity in Christ, we cannot see ourselves, others or the world in the proper context. We mistake a lie for the truth.
What is the truth? It is that each of us are created in the image and likeness of God. Big deal, you might think. But, it is. It is our identity. We are adopted into the family of God (the Trinity) and made partakers of the divine nature. This means we that our nature is caught up into God, by our participation in God’s divine life. A new-found identity in Christ means we can no longer look at ourselves or others in the same way. This is why the John Paul the Great quoted the following verse more than any other from Vatican II:
Christ, the final Adam, by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear. (Gaudium et Spes 22)
If we want to know who we are, who others are, and the answers to the other questions that have been planted deep within us, then we need to understand who Jesus is and who we are in light of Christ. When God became man in the Incarnation, He didn’t lower His own divine nature, which is impossible – because God is unchangeable, rather He raise up our human nature higher. The document goes on to say our nature
has been raised up to a divine dignity in our respect too. For by His incarnation the Son of God has united Himself in some fashion with every man.
This is our “supreme calling” – to find who we are in Christ. To live fully in the Fathers’ love, truth and grace. This is what we were made for.
This is the truth about the mystery of humanity. We were made to live this way, to find this truth. When we do so, we find what real human “dignity” means.
The truth is that only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light.
When we do not live in this truth we bring suffering upon ourselves and others. This is the root of EVERY problem in our society today. Let me offer a few examples of this.
1 – Abortion. When we do not see a developing baby in light of the mystery of God and humanity, then the dignity of a baby who can’t act as we act or do as we do is lost. They then become something that impedes our attempt to be happy, as we understand it. They are an inconvenience.
But, if we see the child through the eternal eyes of God they have an inestimable value. They are priceless and their dignity is not dependent on what they “do”. Their identity is a son and daughter of the Father. They are the brothers and sisters of the God-Man, Jesus.
2 – Relationships. When we enter into a relationship with another person who is as valuable as me, then I will do nothing but truly love them and give of myself to them. I will never treat them as someone who exists for me, but rather who exists for God. They are never to be used. They are always to be valued. What I say to them and what I do with them will always reflect this reality. More than anything – I will never use God’s own beloved in for my own selfish pleasere or allow them to enter into any danger, whether it be a physical, mental, spiritual, or social danger because of me. This means chastity and charity are the virtues that will come from such a relationship.
3 – The poor. How would I treat my own child if they were to come to me and in need of food? I would give it them. Just so, God’s children sometimes are in need and we are called to treat them as God’s children, not as someone who is inconvenient. If we see them for the persons they truly are, there is no other reaction but for us to do what is best for them.
4 – Self Esteem/Worth. The times we see ourselves as worthless or without dignity are the times we fail to see ourselves in light of the Incarnation. God took on flesh, not for His own sake, but for my sake and your sake. He became a man in order to show that there is nothing more worthy of love than the height of His creation – human beings. Nothing more worthy of love than you. Not a “feeling” of love, but a sacrificial love. A love that humbles Himself to live and die for another. That is love. It is for you.
5 – Suffering. Without Jesus crucified, there is no purpose to suffering. It is to be avoided at all costs and is the worst thing that can happen to us. Without the crucifix, pleasure becomes the highest good. But, pleasure comes and goes. When it is gone, our lives lose meaning. The Cross rightly orders our lives. It points us to the real meaning to life – living in the truth of who we are as humans made by God for sacrificial love. In this identity we can find why God allows suffering – in order to draw us closer to Himself.
Theses are just a few examples, but this is part of the antidote to the problems of our culture. This is also a broad stroke that when refined became JPII’s Theology of the Body.
The mystery of man and the mystery of God isn’t just fun to think about. It is the most important thing to search for. It is what will change us and our culture. It is the answer to the questions of life. As Gaudium et Spes 22 ends it says it all.
Such is the mystery of man, and it is a great one, as seen by believers in the light of Christian revelation. Through Christ and in Christ, the riddles of sorrow and death grow meaningful. Apart from His Gospel, they overwhelm us. Christ has risen, destroying death by His death; He has lavished life upon us so that, as sons in the Son, we can cry out in the Spirit; Abba, Father