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What It Means to be Human!


In today’s world no question needs to be addressed more than the question of what it means to be human. Especially in our culture of death, in which our fellow human brothers and sisters are being murdered in blatant crimes against humanity like abortion and euthanasia. At first glance it seems easy enough to define human as being a member of the homosapien species or even physically having characteristics of a human. Although these definitions are accurate, we will see that there is much more to being human. In fact we must not be partially human, but fully human in every aspect and way our Creator made us.

As mentioned we must not merely be partial human, but fully human. One principle, which contributes to being fully human is that of dignity in community. Due to the fact that we are relational beings, we must communicate and not merely study and observe our fellow man. One must also ask, what is dignity? We must first look at what needs have to be met to be fully human, which end up being the groundwork for all the principles. First, we have biological needs that contain nine body systems to care for. Secondly, we have eleven feelings, along with five external and four internal senses, which make up our psychological needs. Thirdly, we are very distinct from other animals, in the sense that we have spiritual needs, our intellect and free will, as opposed to mere instinct. In addition, there are social needs to be aware of since we are relational and need to communicate with our fellow man. Jesus, himself instructed us to love our neighbor and to make disciples of all. This would be rather difficult if we were to live on some deserted island by ourselves. This brings me to the final need and probably the most controversial to some. The transcendental need, in my opinion, affects all the other needs to some degree. If one has no belief or a distant relationship with God, one’s social need could be affected. For example, he may see no reason to love his neighbor or be his "brother’s keeper" in social and moral issues like abortion. (Of course, today we have many Christians who take this selfish approach.) Therefore, true dignity, is being all that I am and all that I can do with respect to all five needs. This dignity, in order for one to be fully human must be exercised in community.

A second principle is that of human integrity. Again using the five needs, we must understand how they all come together in harmony. One must first differentiate among the five needs. For example, I cannot be fully human and make the error of confusing free will, in the spiritual needs, with my feelings, in the psychological dept. A modern example of this confusion, is that of love. True, unconditional love is a decision and commitment, and falls in the spiritual area (certainly affected by the transcendental need). A common error is when love is portrayed as lust or a mere feeling that changes depending on one’s feelings that day, putting love in psychological needs, and reducing it to animal behavior. I often wonder if these people ever reflect on the greatest act of love displayed out of free will, being our Lord’s death on a cross. Also one other point needs to addressed. Each need must be developed and in balance with the rest of the needs. For example, one cannot be fully human and build one’s intellect up but neglect his biological needs, and vice-versa. We must work on all five needs to be fully human.

Human totality, the third principle is very similar. Concerning all five needs, we must always be concerned with the good of the whole person. At times a secondary sacrifice must be made for the good of the whole. For example, a toe, which if not removed will destroy the use of the whole foot, may be removed for the good of the whole foot. One big error that can never be allowed is that of a primary sacrifice. For example, in our day, scientists, out of pride try to play God, and create test tube babies. The primary part, the reproductive organ and human procreation itself, are sacrificed and neglected for what modern science calls the good of the whole person. To be fully human, means to care for the good of the whole person with exceptions like secondary sacrifice, but never sacrificing primary needs and parts.

The next principle I see as a combination of two principles, due to its heavy emphasis on the Creator. Stewardship and Creativity both deal with all five needs, but I would like to focus on the transcendental need primarily. First of all, a steward is one who looks after and cares for another one’s property, finances, etc. To be fully human is to realize the source of whatever has been created and if you believe in God, it is the acceptance to take care and watch over his creation. There are three accounts that must be considered as stewards. First we must realize that we are not finished pieces, but works in progress. Secondly, human nature varies, so the social conditions are always changing. Lastly, technology, is on the rise and we always use this in respect towards our Creator and his creations. The principle of creativity is very similar, in the sense that we again must recognize the Creator. We cannot create out of nothing and for that reason we share in creation in an imperfect sense. We also are limited in the sense that what we invent should never be used to dehumanize. All creativity and inventiveness should be used for the glory and praise of God. Finally, there is a cooperative task at hand, in which we should cooperate with the Creator in all creation. For example, man and woman come together as one and through a procreative and unitive act their love is shown through a child. God ever present, allows conception and infuses a soul, and thus man and woman have cooperated with God in bringing life into the world. Unfortunately, today we have those who out of selfishness have tried to divorce God from the picture through the means of artificial contraception, artificial insemination, IVF, etc. To be fully human, therefore is to care for, watch over, cooperate with and share in God’s task at hand.

Finally the last principle of conscience, shapes our whole life through the choices we make throughout it. All our decisions will effect our final goal(hopefully to share in eternal life with God!). For this reason, we must form our consciences well. We must educate ourselves, form our consciences accordingly, and act accordingly. If we make the wrong choice due to perhaps a lax, rigid, perplexed or doubtful conscience, we must accept the responsibility for our actions. God has not abandoned us. Through the Holy Spirit, working through Holy Mother Church we have guidance concerning faith and morals. In fact when the Holy Father speaks infallibly, either extraordinarily or ordinarily, we can be certain that they are the words of the Holy Spirit. The Church has survived 2000 years and will continue to survive for the simple fact that it is being guided on a pilgrimage by the Holy Spirit. We as the faithful are obliged to give our assent of faith to infallible teaching and in authoritative teaching we are to give our submission of mind and will. So in order to be fully human we must have a well-formed conscience, obedient and submissive to God and his one true Church.

In conclusion, one can see that there is much more to being simply human by appearance or species. We must always be aware of our five needs (biological, psychological, spiritual, social, and transcendental) and develop them all fully to the best of our ability. We must always work on the principles that make up the full human. If we neglect a certain need or principle than we are only partially human. However, since we have been commanded to " be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect,"(Matt 5:48), we have an ideal to live by . We must strive to be the best we can, with what we have been given by our Creator , to be considered fully human.

John Sistare, Seminarian of Diocese of Providence

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