What does it mean to be fully human?
The Book of Genesis teaches us that, at least in part, to be human is to have free will, and thus the potential to sin. The story of the temptation of Adam and Eve is only the initial evidence of this: their first act of free will is based in a desire to be in control, to direct their own lives, their own existence. And thus they mistrust God, and eat of the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden; their choice marks humankind indubitably ever after. Indeed, in his Letter to the Romans, Paul refers to this as the pattern of the trespass of Adam, for through the human exercise of free will, death came to all men, inasmuch as all sinned. And throughout history, humankind has doggedly asked for God’s forgiveness: Thoroughly wash me from my guilt, the psalmist sings in the Miserere (Psalm 51). To be human is to live in constant oscillation between our tendency to sin (the choice is ours due to free will), and our desire that God create a clean heart for us, over and over again.
The pattern of the trespass of Adam is upended with the Incarnation of Jesus, however, most notably at the time of his temptation in the desert. In Matthew's Gospel, in spite of every enticement put before him, Jesus will not presume to invoke the power of God dwelling in him in his responses to the devil; he simply trusts, as Adam and Eve were unable to do, and quotes Scripture: You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test. The model of radical other-centeredness, Jesus redefines what it means to be human; the Son of God was sent so that the world might be transformed, so that self-centeredness might give way to an other-centered body, the Body of Christ.
We struggle with being human; Jesus shows us how to be fully human in his death and rising. For, where human power works by taking, divine power operates by giving; Jesus’ gift to us is entirely other-focused and entirely free. If we remain one in him, we cannot be self-centered; passing through the death of baptism, we enter into life in him, fully human – for all that we might remain flawed – by the grace of God, living out our humanity as we learn to give, and to love, other-centered, always.
This post is based on Fr. Pat’s Scripture class.
Image source: Wordle