One of the characteristics of being human is the need to belong. Another one seems to be the need to be spiritual, and why we must struggle to be spiritual, and why we, of all living beings, have the ability to reason. From the very beginning of what we know to be human existence, Genesis 2:17-19 (NRSVCE) “7 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.” 19 So out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name.
It is noteworthy to realize that Adam (Adama, Hebrew: the ground) was made by God and so were all the animals, as you read above. Eve alone was made from a rib from Adam’s side and not from the earth. This suggests that, while all males are dirty by nature, women proceed from human flesh (Adam’s rib) are are not dirty or defiled. Perhaps that is why Mary was selected by God as the Second Eve, this time the mother of the Church Universal.
OUR NEED TO BELONG
From time immemorial, humans have tended to cluster in groups of their own kind (e.g., humans don’t run with baboons, although sometimes you wouldn’t know that by the hatred some political parties have for those who do not agree with them, all contrary to Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict).
The genius of the Book of Genesis is that it recounts what it means to be human. Adam and Eve were created by God. They were made because God needed a gardner for his paradise (Heaven). As the story goes, Adam and Eve confused being gardner or caretaker with being God. In this story, we see two elements that make humans what they are, separate from all other living things. They are the ability to reason, and the ability to make choices. Reason gives us the awareness to choose what is good for us. Genesis relates how Adam and Eve knew that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was forbidden. They wee not to eat of it, but they did. Even though they thought they were doing right or knew that they were disobeying God, they did it hoping God would not know. They wanted to be God.
To be sure we share processes of procreation, safety, sustenance, and survival. One other needs common to other animals is belonging. Belonging, rather than being a Lone Ranger among humans, is how we focus all the other needs. As God says in Genesis, “…it is not good for man to be alone.” God tells Adam and Eve that there are consequences to sin (death, pain, suffering, having to work for their survival, lack of security, and they realized they were naked.
Life outside the Garden of Eden meant that God was not there to tell them what was right or wrong, nor to protect them from the consequences of their mistake. Genesis is describing us in our relationship with God. They still had hope that God would protect them. Indeed, in the Old Testament, through Abraham, Moses, David and the Prophets, God sets us a covenant relationship with Israel and even gave them laws (10 Commandments) and Jewish traditions of sacrifice and governance. But, it is not without consequences for those seeking to live the covenant relationship. Think about this! Israel had to choose between what is right (God’s way) and what was easy. The writings of the Old Testament told of how Israel did or did not keep the covenant. In addition, there was always the hint of one to come to save the people (from their enemies, but more importantly, from themselves). In each age, we have the same choice. The wages of sin, says Scripture, is death. We pay the price for what Adam and Eve did. With Christ, we must still die, but now we are heirs of the Kingdom of Heaven and we are given helps to sustain us on earth while we proclaim the death of the Lord until He comes again.
If God is not part of the way you find meaning for your purpose in life, you may be oblivious to the consequences of sin. There are three dimensions to spirituality, the beginning (creation), the re-creation, and the continuation. The Father is Lord of creation; the Son is Lord of re-creation or salvation; and the Holy Spirit is Lord of the Church until the Second Coming of Christ. The Church is all about doing what was won for us by the blood of the Lamb. All three dimensions are separate, yet all three are one.
Every choice we make has a consequence, although most of them won’t kill us. Scripture says in.Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” For me, that sums it up nicely, but there is a catch. Who determines what is sin (missing the mark) and what happens when we do sin? When is something sinful and when is it just part of the everyday routine? Let’s go back to the concept of reality being three universes (physical, mental and spiritual). These three different and separate realms of reality are one. Yet this reality is one into which Christ became human (Philippians 2:5-12).
There are two kinds of humans: those who live in two universes (physical and mental) and those who live in three universes (physical, mental and spiritual). The first kind we call living in the World. This is the place where the purpose of life is to live, learn to love, breed, find meaning, and eventually to die. Not a bad living when compared to the purpose of an animal, i.e., to be born, to live, eat, procreate, get old, and die. The World is limited in that our morality is governed by governments, those in power, and ultimately the individual. Relativism (no one has the truth because everyone can believe whatever they want and what they believe is reality.
The second type of human also lives in the World but is not of it. Because of Faith and their consent to that relationship, humans voluntarily join the Kingdom of Heaven (begins with Baptism and continue on Forever). The consequences of this choice are:
Here is an unusual thought from my Lectio Divina meditation (Philippians 2:5). Ecclesiastes 3 speaks of a time for everything under heaven. In that context, why did Christ have to become human at any time? Erich Fromm’s book, The Art of Loving, states his premise that we are not born knowing how to love, we must learn it and authentic love is an art. Following this line of reasoning, I thought about one of the reasons, perhaps an unintended consequence, of why Christ had to become one of us was to show us how to love as God loves us. Christ left us but one command, a new one, that bids his followers to love each other as He loves us. The life of Christ, the mission of Christ was to love the Father as his only begotten Son could do (being both divine and human nature). For who want to be his disciples, they must learn how to love. This love is not like the world teaches you, although that love is good. This is the love that transcends all knowing, how to love as God the Son would do for us. I asked myself why Christ would not only tell us what love is but go to all this trouble to show us, even to giving up his life voluntarily on the cross? Christ did not leave us orphans after he rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. The Holy Spirit took over, ever so seamlessly, the task of being with the Church or Gathering of those who practice in this School of Love, as St. Benedict organized it in his Rule. The Church, as living Body of Christ on earth, in heaven, and in purification, makes it possible for each one of us individually to learn the art of loving spiritually, as Christ both taught us and showed us. Here is the point that amazes me. Heaven is all about pure love. Without Christ, we could not even entertain the hope of going to be with that same Christ. Yet, through, with and in Him, we are saved from ourselves, given both the words of life (Scriptures) and how to love as Christ Himself loves us. We do this by loving others. And how do we do that? Read Matthew 25: 36ff. In loving others on while we live, we prepare ourselves to live as adopted sons and daughters of the Father in the life to come. None of this makes any sense without Faith. Just as God overshadowed Mary, Mother of God, the Holy Spirit is with each of us each day, our companion on the rough road we each lead towards our destiny, to be one with the One who says, Behold, I gather all things to myself. If that is not Good News, I don’t know what is.
As a Lay Cistercian struggling to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus each day, I call upon the name of the Lord in my Lay Cistercian practices of Lectio Divina, Liturgy of the Hours (www.divineoffice.org), Rosary, Reading from Scripture, writing my blog and writing down what the Holy Spirit tells me (errors and all). All of this I do in silence and solitude, (if my dog, Tucker, allows me), each and every day so that, in calling upon the name of the Lord, I might seek God wherever I find him, and give glory to the Father through, with and in Christ.
Praise be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever. The God who is, who was, and who is to come at the end of the ages. Amen and Amen. –Cistercian doxology