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Sunday, February 25, 2007

Human Dignity

I spent most of today working on several short papers for my IPT class, and I'm still struggling with academic anxiety. I'm learning a lot, but for some reason, I don't seem to have the ability to translate what's in my head to a couple paragraphs required for each question.

One of the questions pertains to what John Paul II said about human dignity. For the life of me, I can't seem to make this paper happen, but I have to say SOMETHING on this because it is a very relevant topic for our culture.

Just out of curiosity, I went to Wikipedia to check out their definition of "human dignity" and was absoutely shocked by what I saw. They don't have a good definition; they have a bunch of wishy-washy stuff I refuse to post on my blog. If you'd like to check it out for yourself, here's the link to the "definition" Wikipedia provides.

This kind of thing always riles me up, and it of course feeds into the creative process, so although I can't seem to be concise enough for my paper, I sure can discuss the topic in general!

The main publication being used currently is Redemptor Hominis, and it is from this source that I am to gather my information. That is not to say there are not other sources. For the purposes of this particular post, please understand that unless I indicate otherwise, all information is obtained from that specific Encyclical.

I think in order to accurately understand his writings, it is important for all of us to understand that John Paul II wrote everything from the standpoint of, not only authentic Catholicism and the teachings of Vatican II, but against the backdrop of the theme of human dignity. "Human dignity" is a phrase woven throughout his works, and considerin his having grown up in Nazi and Communist Poland, it's easy to understand why this concept underscored his life and his pontificate.

Redemptor Hominis was the first of his encyclicals, and I have to admit that it's one worthy of being read again and again for anyone seeking to understand the dilemma of modern life and our innate yearnings for something greater.

Which brings us to the topic at hand, human dignity. I've often seen, and even participated in discussions surrounding this mysterious concept of "human dignity". Only read the Wikipedia definition and the confusion surrounding this is made clear, and we cannot help but be alarmed by the fact that so many do not understand what it means to have dignity.

John Paul II starts by explaining that man has innate dignity by virtue of the fact that he has been created for God, out of the love of God, in God's own image and likeness. No other creature or creation can claim such a heritage; none other than man has been created specifically for God himself. And therin lies the foundation of human dignity.

But there is more to this theology, for God went further and granted his greatest creation a free will; and through abuse of that freedom, man broke his union with God, falling from Eden. Falling from the union of God's love, not by God's choice, but by man's. Yet the Lord is faithful, and thus to bridge this failure of man, God himself sent His only Son, both human and divine.

The Second Vatican Council, in Gaudium et Spes states this so eloquently:

He who is the 'image of the invisible God (Col.1:15), is Himself the perfect man who has restored in the children of Adam that likeness to God which had been disfigured ever since the first sin. Human nature, by the very fact that it was assumed, not absorbed, in Him, has been raised in us al to a dignity beyond compare. For, by his Incarnation, He, the Son of God, in a certain way united Himself with each man. He worked with human hands, he thought with a human mind. He acted with a human will, and with a human heart He loved. Born of the Virgin Mary, he has truly been made one of us, like to us in all things except sin.

From this explanation, John Paul II brings us into the mystery of the redemption, that act in which our Redeemer, Jesus Christ, by his sacrifice "fully reveals man to himself."

God became man, and through His experiences, he reveals man and his potential for grace and union with God. It is through His death upon the cross that man recognizes himself, sees in Jesus the reflection of God, which necessarily brings him deeper into the very mystery of humanity.

It is through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ that we as humanity are redeemed, freed from the sins that seperated us, and the meaning of our lives has been restored. Through God become man, He is inextricably united with each and every human being. Each and every human being has been "willed by God, as chosen by him from eternity and called, destined for grace and glory." (Redemptor Hominis 14)

Our society often sees man as only an instrument, a means to an end; yet in the Gospels we find the Truth, that of the love of God for man, the love of God for His creation. The world we live in constantly undermines this divine love of Christ, who died for us, and who, through his death imparted the breath of life that is the Holy Spirit. It is the mystery not only of creation but of God Incarnate that makes our lives holy, that makes each life holy, and drives us to seek that eternal union with God the Father, as he originally intended.


Anonymous said...

Wow! This post made me realize two important things. Well,I knew them already but it just underlines it that much more. One is that abortion is wrong, wrong, wrong because it strips not only the unborn of his dignity but also those that allow it. It's two sides of the same coin - the innocent and the guilty but the result is the same - loss of dignity.

The second thing is that even the people in my life who live in objective mortal sin through choices or addictions are still made in the image of God and He will not abandon them because of THEIR innate dignity - no matter that I can barely see it with my own sinful eyes.

I don't know if any of that made sense but these are two themes seem to be very current for me right now.

Adoro said...

Wow! You got THAT out of my rambling post? God is so GOOD!

Warren said...

I was just going to say something similar to Angela, except I wanted to mention that you are a passionate and well-formed orthodox Catholic, and anything you could say on human dignity would be worth reading. The thing about docile beleif in the Catholic Church's moral teaching is that it has enlightened your intellect. You might not know your own intellectual and spiritual strength, but you sure recognize the pathetic nature of the modern's adled mind (wikipedia) when you see it.

I wish I could find that quote about the true God-given beauty of human sex; blinding in its brilliance, at which the muddled moderns are left gaping and stupid.


Anonymous said...

Adoro...what can I say...the retreat opened my eyes to a lot of things!

Beth Lemer said...

This just proves my point that sometimes the stuff that pumps out of wikipedia is just bull and lies.

Cathy_of_Alex said...

Adoro: Anyone can correct or post to Wiki. That's part of its beauty as well as it instability.

I just had a revelation from your post. JPII's Papacy, JPII himself and most of his writings WERE about human dignity.