One of the most important principles of the spiritual life is that all good comes from God and that any good thing that we do is done through God’s will and in God’s power. But what is the human factor in all this? What is the great power that we exercise?
To answer that question requires us to investigate the structure of the human person. We are composed of body and soul, of reason and will. We are free and intelligent beings who are placed on the world stage for a relatively short period of time in order to exercise one very important action that we do both piecemeal and as a final summation when we die: to say Yes to God or to say No to Him. This act is completely ours and it is the foundation of the entire adventure of living and loving.
It is one of the purposes of our short stay in this earthly life. Otherwise, why would not God just create us to be His in heaven? Why all this struggle? Why all this danger of falling into damnation?
Clearly, the ability to choose God in freedom (which an imperfect world gives us—especially one in which God is hidden in faith) is constitutive of the dignity of the human person. As God is free, He wants the creature to be free as well. And not only that; because God is by His very nature a Creator, He wants the human person to be a co-creator with him in the project of the formation of his own personality and makeup and also in having a role in the creation of this world, which is purposely left unfinished. This state of affairs enables the human person to have a role in its final destiny.
This very high concept of the purpose of creation and the dignity that God bestows on the human person by giving him the freedom of this life also motivates man to see an exalted purpose to his life and a calling to make this world what God wants it to be; hence, the Biblical doctrine of the Kingdom of God.
The relationship between the scope and vision of the concept of the human person and the actual living out of that reality is a connection of vital importance. If the human person is merely a concurrence of biological movements and merely the work of bacteria and enzymes, as some biological determinists would have it: what possible expectation can history have of such beings? And if the human project is merely the result of random chance, as the proponents of chaos theory would have it, is human civilization merely a construct of blind forces that end in the nothingness of the grave? What then can we expect of life? What hope is there? All that is left is the philosophy of “Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow you die”.
Because of the Incarnation, the human project is invested with eternal meaning and life altering resonances. Human choices matter greatly. The eternal has chosen to be human and therefore all that is human has been elevated into the Godhead. Now, therefore, we can expect the great things of human progress that the project of living presents to the world.
We can see this exemplified in the field of artistic expression. As the ‘low’ philosophy of man as bacteria evolving into higher bacteria, without any moral or spiritual sense gains ground, we see the decline of great artistic expression. Look at what Hollywood is producing today: guns and superheroes.
Where are the ‘Gone with the Winds’ and ‘Citizen Kane’s’? Look at Broadway. Where are the ‘My Fair Lady’ and ‘West Side Story’s’? Opera is dying. The truly memorable symphony is a rare occasion. And when we compare this to the great art of a more Christian Spiritual age we may ask: when are we going to measure up to or surpass Dante, Shakespeare, Michelangelo, Dickens, or Dostoyevsky? The Western World is in cultural decline, masked by our technological achievements that lead up to the carnage, always possible, of nuclear devastation.
Our only hope is to rediscover God and the eternal vocation of the greatness of humanity. Man is created by God and endowed with a soul and a heart that can aspire to great things. His every thought, word and deed has eternal significance. Man matters. The reductionists who see only today for man and oblivion for tomorrow have nothing to offer to the world. It is still God or nothingness.
What an important time to be a believer. How vital it is to be called a Christian today!