Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The "Place" of the Human Person in Creation: The "Space Between"

In today's daily Mass reading from the second chapter of Genesis we hear about the creation of the human person. In a very intimate and extraordinary way, God personally fashions from the earth the human person and than breaths the "breath of life" gently into the persons nostrils. While on the surface these actions of God appear quite matter of fact and seem to merely communicate the author's perspective on how humans came into being, they are rather quite loaded with implications for what it means to be a fully human creature.

To begin with, it is quite significant that the author indicates that the person was formed from the ground. The root word for human, the Latin humus, means, "soil." To be human therefore means being "earthy", "grounded" or "rooted" in one's connectedness to creation and to what it means not only to be homo sapien, but also a fellow creature among other creatures. A contemporary idiom that communicates well what this means is the phrase, "down to earth." When someone is "down to earth", they are relatively well-adjusted, approachable, easy-going, and humble. It's also interesting to note that the word "humble" also shares the root word "humus." To be human is to be humble and to be humble implies being connected with the reality of our dependence and interdependence with the earth, all creatures, and every person.

Fullness of humanity not only comes from being deeply connected with the earth and being humble but also issues from the realization of being directly animated by the divine. Unlike other creatures who respirate, humans alone are capable of receiving and breathing the "breath" of God. In other words, humans are that unique creature that is meant to receive and share the gift of God's Holy Spirit to a degree that no other creature can. Why does God do this? While the reasons are many, it's interesting to note that shortly after breathing God's breath into the human person's nostrils, God places the person in the Garden of Eden to cultivate and care for it. The most immediate reason why God creates the human person is to be God's ambassador of care and concern for all creation.

To be fully human means simultaneously being both grounded in our connectedness to the earth and being elevated to the vocation of caring for all creation and persons by fully receiving and breathing the gift of God's breath. It means striking the careful balance of occupying the "space between" heaven and earth by being ambassadors of creation to God (in prayer and praise) and being God's ambassadors to creation (in a mode of compassion and care for all creatures, especially the most needy, threatened, and vulnerable). In a world of deep ecological and environmental turmoil, this reminder from the book of Genesis could not be more timely or relevant! Pat, TOR