We often say, "I am just human." We usually use this phrase as an excuse for our shortcomings and weaknesses. But what does it really mean to be human?
It is the scriptural teaching than man was created in the image and likeness of God and our Christian faith gives great dignity to man. Adam was not created by nature; he was created by God and was given the breath (the spirit) of life. "And the Lord formed man of dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being." (Gen. 2:7) Therefore, when many people nowadays speak about how heredity and the environment determine who we are or who we will become, we must remember our spiritual heredity. Genetic heredity and the effects of the environment are often spoken of in negative terms, and with a deterministic sense. But, in fact, we have inherited much goodness from our Heavenly Fr., which enables us to live by high and holy standards. We must always remember that any action is always preceded by desire. This is where our free will comes in. We either choose life or death. In the Book of Deuteronomy we hear God’s voice telling us, "I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse, therefore choose life that you and your descendents may live, loving the Lord, obeying His voice and cleaving to Him for that means life to you." (Deut. 30:19-20) The entire meaning of human existence depends on this conscious choice.
This is the theoretical meaning. But the question still remains: how do I apply it and what should I do?
Our Lord Jesus Christ showed us "the way of life." He took the form of man when He was incarnate and presented to us the image of the perfect human being. Whatever Christ did, that is what we must do. In other words, we conform to the image of Christ so that by grace we can become what Christ is by nature. Our Lord Jesus Christ exercises dominion and authority by loving kindness and service, not by tyranny and oppression. This is what we must do. He shows love, mercy, and compassion towards everyone. This is what we must do. He has forgiven us; therefore, we are obligated to forgive those who hurt us. He has humbled Himself and washed our feet, We, too, must humble ourselves and serve our fellow human beings in love. Of course, the greatest act we must do is love. This love must be based on what God has already done for us in our Lord Jesus Christ: He loved us even unto death on the cross. St. John teaches us, "In this is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to the expiation of our sins. Beloved, if God loved us, we also ought to love one another." (1 John 13:34)
Since we are made in God’s image and likeness, we become fulfilled and truly at peace when we become like Him. This is our sanctification and the essence of our being as humans. As St. Paul wrote, "transformed into the same image, from glory to glory." (2 Cor. 3:18) Our dignified state as humans is when we become temples of the Holy Spirit and when our body and soul become the "holy of holies."
Through out this process of righteousness and conforming to Christ’s image, we must always bear in mind that this is a dynamic state. This is not a one-time event. We cannot become prisoners and captives of our past experiences, weaknesses, or sin. On the contrary, we must always evolve towards spiritual perfection in Christ. Christ is our only way to God. But how can I reach Christ except through the Church? The Church is the passage that leads to Christ. All our religious external practices must be accompanied by internal conversion and virtuous action so that we can be in communion with God, Who is the source of our being as humans.
So, as we look around us and find that emptiness and cynicism control most things, which are the results of abandoning Christ, we must not get pessimistic. On the contrary, we must have an optimistic outlook, because our faith offers genuine answers to what it is to be a human being. It is a faith that transcends human limitations, because it revolves around the belief that God descended and became man for our salvation. He united us to Himself by an eternal bond, if we choose to keep it. Although much evil and cynicism surround us, we must not allow the devil to fool us. To be truly human is to live in the image of God in all holiness and purity according to what we have been taught by our Great Teacher, our Lord Jesus Christ. We have inherited high standards. May our Lord help us, by His grace, to keep and live in these high standards of goodness.