Becoming More Human This Lent

You weren’t created for this world- so for the next forty days, live like it.

This Sunday, the first reading might surprise us. It’s Lent, so we might expect to hear about fasting or penance. Perhaps we expect the first reading to be about sacrifice or suffering. Instead, we start at the beginning. We’re back in the Garden, with the second creation of account of man.

The LORD God formed man out of the clay of the ground
and blew into his nostrils the breath of life,
and so man became a living being. (Genesis 2:7)

It’s the perfect way to begin Lent. After all, Lent isn’t a weight loss plan. Lent is not about a ten-step plan to a more perfect you. It is a time to get back to the Garden and become more human.

It’s easy to get complacent with our sinful ways when we’re thinking about what it means to be human. After all, what do we say when we mess up: “I’m only human!” But sin isn’t part of our human nature. Sin isn’t what it means to be human.

At times, we rush into talking about original sin, the effects of original sin, and the fall of man when we look at the creation account. But we need to understand the way God created Adam and Eve before the Fall if we’re really going to understand the Fall and our condition afterwards.

The creation account in Genesis 2 says something interesting. It says that God created man out of the dust or clay of the ground. Some translations even say the slime of the earth. We are material beings. We have bodies. 

But that same verse says something else profound: that God breathed life into the man. We have within us the breath of God. With this life of God within us, we are the only creatures on this earth that are both physical and spiritual. We have spiritual, immortal souls that will live forever.

In the first creation account, we see the Trinity saying, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Genesis 1:26) God creates male and female in His image and likeness. This means that we have immortal souls, but it also means that we have intellect and will. We have an intellect that can know the truth, and we have wills that can choose the good.

We are the only visible creatures on this earth that can know and love our Creator. Given this great gift, we are destined to know, love, and serve God, and join him forever in Heaven someday. That’s our purpose, our destiny, our goal.

C.S. Lewis famously said, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world” (Mere Christianity).

You weren’t created for this world, but for the next. This world is ultimately directed towards getting to heaven – and helping everyone around you respond to God’s grace and do the same. Lewis continues, “I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that country and to help others to do the same.”

That’s what Lent is all about. Our fasting, our almsgiving, our life of prayer is directed towards becoming more human. Spoiler alert: when Adam failed to show us what it meant to human, God came to show us Himself. “The truth is that only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light” (Gaudium et spes 22). If we want to become more human, we need to become more like Christ.

The first reading this Sunday reminds us that as human beings we have dignity. That may seem like a contradiction of the call on Ash Wednesday, remember man that you are dust. But to remember we are dust is to simply remember that this passing world is not our final end. Every day we are a little closer to death; and every day, we should be preparing for that death and life in Heaven. That is what we were created for.

You weren’t created for this world- so for the next forty days, live like it.

Live as sons and daughters of God, created in God’s image and likeness. Live as if your eternal destiny is heaven. Strip away what isn’t human – sin, addictions, distractions. Ask for the grace to become more like Christ.

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