What is the point of being human? Ignatius Loyola in his ‘First Principle and Foundation’ gave one succinct summary: ‘ Man is created to praise and reverence God and by this means to save his soul.’ It is a very stark statement. Another extreme would be to say ‘ humanity is created to love and be loved.’ The problem with this rather more romantic understanding is that any decent humanist might sign up for that. It is that ‘first romantic principle’ that seems to be at work in the minds and consciences of a great number of people.
I have had occasion over the past year or so to attend humanist ‘funerals,’ and twice now I have been invited to ‘parties’ to celebrate the life of a friend. The cremation or burial takes place at some other time, often with only the undertakers present. If we pare down being human to ‘loving and being loved,’ this seems a very appropriate was to celebrate the lives of those we love. It may be appropriate but it is less than being human from a Christian perspective.
Now, in the Easter season and moving towards the celebration of Pentecost, Christians celebrate the restoration of humanity as made in the image and likeness of God. This restoration is a re-centering of human existence around the life of the Spirit, and sharing in the risen life of Christ. It is the movement from children of ‘this world to being ‘children of light.’ Christians live both in the light of and in the energies of the age of the world to come. Our Baptism is ‘regeneration’ and the Eucharist is a ‘foretaste of the heavenly banquet.’
This season is a wonderful time to relish the gifts and freedoms that flow from the resurrection of Jesus. It is a time to let ‘our minds be remade,’ (Ephesians 4.23) to be open ‘to the same spirit that raised Jesus from the dead’ (Romans 8:11). It is above all a time to remember our eternal destiny; for the spirit is a pledge of our future inheritance. Human love, even at its most noble and self-sacrificial (the laying down of life for friends) is not an end in itself. This is the tragedy of our humanist friends; they have not yet come to know that the best of human love is only a shadow of the Love of God which is the source of all creation, and which is fully revealed to us in the Incarnation. To reflect on this, spend some time considering prayerfully 1 John 4.
If anything I have written thus far is close to the truth it has a consequence for each of us. It means that our spiritual life, the aspect of our life that guides and empowers us to ‘ praise and reverence God,’ is the most vital and beautiful aspect of being human. In fact, it might be said, it is prayer and worship that enables us to become the human being that we were created to be.