To Be Human

“And then they will see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand erect, hold your heads high because your liberation is near at hand.”

Did you know that “Son of Man” was the name Jesus claimed for himself more than any other? In the 4 Gospels, it appears over 80 times. 80! That’s a lot!

Why would the Son of the Most High, who was present at Creation, who is the Word of God, why would he claim the title, “Son of man” more than any other?

Jesus was fully God and fully man. “…human nature was thereby elevated to a personal union with the Word; and this dignity is given, not on account of any merits, but entirely and absolutely through grace, and therefore, as it were, through the special gift of the Holy Ghost.” (Divinum illud munus, 4) When, through the power of the Holy Spirit, God became man, all of humanity was given a dignity never before present. Simply by the fact that Jesus walked the earth, we, the created, were raised up. No longer mere servants, through Jesus, we become adopted sons and daughters of our Creator.

When Jesus repeatedly acknowledges his humanity, he brings divinity to the world. No longer is God some unknown, unknowable, unseen force. God has trod where we trod, lived where we live, and understands from first-hand experience what it means to be human, to work, to serve, to eat, sleep and do all the things that we humans need to do to survive. Jesus came to humanize us, to take us beyond mere survival, so we can be more fully who we are meant to be.

So too, we who are the followers of Jesus, we are called to continue Jesus’s mission on earth. As the body of Christ, we are his hands and feet, and eyes and ears, his tongue speaking the divine presence of his humanity into the world.

Woo, that sounds good, but what does it mean? In real live practical terms, not just strung together words on a page, what does it look like on the street? It is our vocation to love (CCC 1604). To love our neighbor is to humanize them, to acknowledge their inherent dignity, and to treat them as who they are in God’s eyes. We smile. We make eye contact. We refrain from language that highlights differences or groups of people into “us” and “them.” We talk to people, not about them. We exercise self-discipline when we are driving or waiting in line and not treat others like they are simply impediments to getting to where we are going. We have to work at remembering that they are whole beings created by and loved infinitely by God. We not only provide food for those who don’t have it, but we also work on the systemic injustices in our society that leave people on the fringes. We need to get real about our human rights, and if even one person is deprived of their God-given dignity, we take it as our personal responsibility to right that wrong.

As we sit down to celebrate Thanksgiving today, let us acknowledge that all we have, who we are, and how even the fact that we are breathing is a gift from our all-knowing and all-loving Creator. Because we have enough awareness to acknowledge that gift, we also have a responsibility to lift up the person next to us. We can no longer be okay with just doing our own thing and letting the person next to us to their own thing. We are obligated by our devotion to Jesus to love the person next to us, even to love them so far that our love humanizes them and helps them be more fully who God created them to be.

The thing is, all this doesn’t have to be overwhelming. We don’t have to take care of the whole world all at once. We can start small. As St. Mother Teresa said, “Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.” We can do this, human to human.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Sheryl delights in being the number 1 cheerleader and supporter for her husband, Tom who is a candidate for the Permanent Diaconate in the Diocese of Kalamazoo. They are so grateful for the opportunity to grow together in this process whether it is studying for classes, deepening their prayer life or discovering new ways to serve together. Sheryl’s day job is serving her community as the principal for St. Therese Catholic School in Wayland, Michigan. Since every time she thinks she gets life all figured out, she realizes just how far she has to go, St. Rita of Cascia is her go-to Saint for intercession and help. Home includes Brea, a Bernese Mountain dog and Carlyn, a very, very goofy Golden Retriever.