Fully Human

How often do we say something like, “It’s just human nature”?  Such a phrase is frequently voiced with a negative connotation. When we witness people doing bad or destructive things, or when we have to create rules or laws to keep people from doing those things, we often sigh in resignation that human nature dictates such restrictions. And it is true, human nature was stained by the fall of Adam and sin is a drive that is a challenge to overcome.

But if we go back to the story of creation in the book of Genesis, we read that God created us good. God created human nature and it was in loving harmony with Him. Thus, true human nature is not who we are after Eden, it’s what we were made to be before it.

After the creation story in Genesis, what we see in the Bible is a God who passionately tries to get us back to what He intended human nature to be. He speaks through The Law and the prophets. He weeps, he pleads and ultimately becomes one of us to show us the way. He performs miracles to give us a glimpse of what the restoration of a fallen creation looks like. And when he hangs on a cross, he does so not at the hands of human nature, but of something far less than that.

Human nature is what we see in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. He was fully human.  He shared our flesh and all of the pains that go with that.  He shared our temptations.  But to say Jesus was fully human is also to say that he lived the way humanity was created to live – a life of perfect love.

As Christians we are called to be fully human, to live and love like Jesus did. And though that may seem out of reach, the Lord showed us the way because it could be done.

Ask The Beasts

My dog, Mattie, just cannot get close enough to human beings. It really doesn’t matter who it is, she’s never met a stranger.  If you sit in a chair and give her any indication that you’d like for her to come over, you’ve pretty much opened yourself up to the gradual progression from pat on the head –> paws on the lap –>  large Labrador Retriever sitting on you.  If she could get any closer to you she would.  We joke that she would jump into your body if she could.

Mattie isn’t unique among canines, of course, and there is certainly a life lesson for all of us in the life of our dogs.  It seems they love without condition. And they crave our touch, our affection, our speech, our very being.

“Ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the air, and they will tell you….” (Job 12.7)

God has given us so many signs and wonders to show His love. He made us and all of creation out of love in hopes that we would return it with thankful hearts. But not only did he wish to give us the beauty of creation, he went further. He gave us the fullness of Himself.

When He saw that we were not returning His love and depriving ourselves of His grace, he poured Himself out to get as close to us as He possibly could – by entering the womb of a woman and being born to walk among us.  And that love was still rejected. He hung on a cross.

But He did not allow that to be the last word – he continued to pursue us. He walked out of that tomb and sent us His Spirit to live within and among us. And He continues to show up every time we gather together at Mass to enter our bodies and nourish us with His love.

It has been told that St. Francis of Assisi preached to the animals. Sometimes I think Mattie preaches to me.