“God formed man from the dust of the ground. There is here something at once humbling & consoling (p.42),” reflects Joseph Ratzinger at the opening of his third homily on Genesis. First, we must observe that the Bible upholds man’s dignity from the outset by illustrating how he is “one humanity formed from God’s one earth, (p.44)” which at once shows the unity of all mankind and the evil of all division, especially along lines of ethnicity.
Further, man’s dignity is elevated in his creation in God’s own image & likeness. It is true that there is something of man from “below,” that is, of the earth; but it is likewise true that man bears within him something from “above,” something heavenly, something of God. Ratzinger says that each individual human being, “realizes the one project of God… the same creative idea of God (p.45).” Therein lies man’s dignity: “Each one bears God’s breath in himself or herself, each one is God’s image. This is the deepest reason for the inviolability of human dignity, & upon it is founded ultimately every civilization.”
Often today, this image is besmirched & goes unrecognized. “When the human person is no longer seen as… bearing God’s breath, then the human being begins to be viewed in utilitarian fashion [&] the barbarity appears that tramples upon human dignity (p.45).” In this case, Ratzinger asks, not rhetorically, if the dignity of the human person can be defended in a world of technology?
While it is true that science has given man a certain amount freedom & control over his world, there is a grave danger that those things that cannot be scientifically verified, like morality, holiness, or love will be cast aside as relics of man’s unenlightened past. In this way, instead of liberating, science can destroy what is most distinctly human. But this is a ground that Ratzinger is unwilling to concede, as man’s rationality is also defining of him; so he now distinguishes between two kinds of reason: the scientific & the moral-religious. He suggests that the moral-religious dimension of man must not be dismissed because it isn’t mathematical. In fact, it is actually the more “human” of the two. It is what prevents man from being reduced to just another thing in nature, to an animal. It keeps man from destroying himself.
Returning to the image of God in man, the Cardinal notes that “An image… represents something... It points to something beyond itself (p.47).” We then see that man, too, points to something beyond himself. It is easily observable that man is made for relations with other persons. He is not closed in on himself; he is oriented toward an Other. As fulfilling as human relations can be, man finds within him a longing for union with something transcendent, which he instinctively knows to be God, his origin and his destination. This desire for communion with the divine Other is the root of all prayer.
So we can see that it is not only his rationality that makes man what he is, but his capacity to both think and pray. “Human beings are, as a consequence, most profoundly human when they step out of themselves & become capable of addressing God…, when they discover their relation to their Creator (p.48).” We discover our origin, purpose, meaning, & destination only when we see ourselves in reference to God, from whom we receive our being.
P.S.: Folks, I've had ZERO time to write, other than this series of articles of the KOC newsletter. I have a colossal project at work launching that's not going well, & I am way behind on my Metaphysics studies for Franciscan U. I could use a few prayers. Thanks.