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Letter to Parishioners

The Catholic Faith in Slow Motion (no 40)

Dignity and Destiny (part two)

See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called Children of God.... Beloved, we are God's children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when Christ appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.  And everyone who so hopes in Christ purifies himself, as he is pure (First Letter of John 3:1-3).

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory (Paul's Letter to the Colossians 3:1-4).

Original Dignity
The uniqueness of the human person, our unique human dignity, is declared on the first page of Holy Scripture.  The human creature, male and female, is created in the image of God, after the likeness of God (Cf. Gen. 1:26-27).  The God-likeness can be described from several perspectives:  rationality, dominance over the non-human creation, creativity, the capacity for self-giving love, the gift of articulate speech, etc.  But all such human qualities tend toward this astounding claim—that the human being is created for communion with the eternal God.  For the human being, to be alive is to have been assigned a destiny: fellowship with God.  In fact, it is not wrong to say that the whole of the created order (“all things, visible and invisible”) shares in this destiny, albeit through and for the sake of the human creature.

Creation In and Through Christ . . .
There is another way to speak of this mystery.  When we read the Old Testament creation narrative through the “lens” of Christian faith (which is the way Christians read the whole of Scripture) we confess that it is through Christ that “all things were made”.  For he himself is the creating Word of God (Jn. 1: 1ff ).  He himself is the eternal Image and Likeness of God, as a son is the image of his father.  It is in union with Christ, in Christ-likeness, that we may grow into the image and likeness of the Eternal God.

A Lost Destiny . . .?
But those first pages of Genesis do not speak only of the creation, they describe also a “fall” from the created dignity and destiny of the human creation.  What is sin?  Sin is not simply the violation of a moral rule; it is the violation of communion with the living God.  Sin is not simply the refusal to do one's duty; it is a refusal of one's promised destiny, and the loss of a God-bestowed dignity.  Original sin is the loss of original destiny.

Only if we begin to comprehend the utter disaster of this fall from dignity can we begin to comprehend the wonder of how our dignity is restored and our destiny reclaimed in Christ.

(to be continued)

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