Wounded human nature is a “strange nature” wherein the false is sometimes embraced for its perceived comfort, nourished for fear of the pain one might incur in curing it, and upheld on the shaky principle of rigid stubbornness.
By Deacon Frederick Bartels
12 March 2016
The human person is a mix of emotions, mystery, desires, and pursuits, often at war with one another, whose ultimate goal and purpose is all too often obscured by things of far lesser importance. Consequently, the gaze is directed at a fallen leaf rather than toward the heavenly heights; the ear intent on some unimportant gong that drowns out eternal music flowing from the hand of God; the mind fixed on informational static rather than on the clear, astonishing beauty and goodness of the voice of Truth Itself.
Fallen human nature. That catastrophe at the dawn of time wherein man wished to be God. That moment of express desire to deny the reality of humankind’s creaturely status before the Creator. The Garden is sealed off; the way to the tree of life blocked. The ground cursed. The reality of human existence changed.
The consequences were vast and far and wide. It has made recognizing the obvious difficult. Promoted confusion. Brought on the insane idea that discarding the harmful is unhelpful. It invites people to pridefully forsake light for darkness, spiritual health for sickness, the beauty of truth for half-truths and outright falsehoods. It exchanges liberating freedom for self-imposed incarceration; promotes the disastrous notion that man is ruler and god in his own right; it encourages not only a toying with temptation but a headlong charge into the middle of it with heedless glee.
Consequently, the inexpressible beauty of the immortal human soul goes unnoticed. It is tarnished and wounded and brutalized by sin and disordered desires for pleasure at the expense of holiness and purity. The body battles against the soul as if it were the sworn enemy, while it is in fact the form of the body, its friend and companion, its animating and God created life-principle of incomprehensible beauty that is bestowed with the gift of immortality.
Human nature . . . so desperate for a cure. But where is it, what is it? Better, Who is it?
Contemporary culture has not the answer. It cannot say who is the physician nor what is the required medicine—albeit to usher forward counterfeit concoctions. It cannot tell you of your origin, purpose, and goal. It cannot say who definitively heals nor in whom restoration and completeness and safety is found. It cannot communicate the real meaning of truth and the authentic purpose of the human intellect. It will not say, “You are made to love and serve and glorify God and thereby attain heaven.” Rather, it will say, “You exist for self-aggrandizement.”
The counter to these ills is the Church. The Church is the last institution standing whose words are indeed the words of truth, and whose sacraments are indeed the sacraments of life. She, as mother and guardian, labors to lead her children into the fullness of life by communicating to them the fullness of truth. As a beacon of light on a hill, she shines before the world, spanning the centuries undefiled, in order to draw people to the safe shores of Christ. She not only lights the way across the tortuous sea of life but herself is the Ark of passage to the horizon of eternal life. Her seaworthiness is demonstrably and unquestionably sound. There is no storm capable of sinking her, no thunder that can drown out her voice.
She insists that Christ is not simply a way but The Way. She unfailingly repeats again and again that Christ not only teaches and lives what is true but is Truth Itself. She reminds her children that Christ not only offers life but is himself Life! The Church, in union with the sweet Virgin Mary at the wedding feast at Cana, points to the Savior of the world and says, “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5).
Jesus then said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (Jn 8:31-32)
If you continue in the word of Jesus, living your life as Christ lived his, as an authentic disciple, then you will know the truth; then you will be made free.
Christ is the principle healing, restoring and elevating divine and human Person, the Word made flesh, who has come into the world as the Physician of human nature. This healing, available by the merits of his sacrifice and received through faith in him, is a real re-creation, not merely a covering up of something dirty, like snow over a dungheap, as Martin Luther was fond of teaching. The person united to Christ is washed and cleansed by his blood, not simply covered over by it or hidden underneath it.
However, uniting oneself to Christ entails more than simply saying, “I believe,” for the demons said as much. “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder” (James 2:19). True union is obtained through love. Love is attained through a complete gift of self to the Lord Jesus Christ. Dying to self is the dynamic of self united to Love. Death to self is served through free and loving obedience to God:
He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me; and he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him. (Jn 14:21)
To love, then, means to believe in faith the entire content of the revelation of Christ, the whole of the deposit of faith, even though one might find some difficulty in understanding it. Further, to love means to live that same content fully. That is the moral life in Christ. That is the life of faith. That is the life of love. That is the Catholic life.
Yet none of this is possible without the grace of God. Hence we circle back to the Church and everything that living the sacramental life in her arms entails: repentance and baptism and faith; reliance on the help of Christ and his Spirit; prayer and penance and humility; the battle against sin. It includes the desire for holiness and perfection and living the Christian life to the fullest: which presupposes receiving the Eucharist, the source and summit of the Church and the life-blood of the Christian, for Jesus said:
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. (Jn 6:53-56)
The human person universally thirsts for infinite Beauty, Goodness and Truth. What is found in the world and produced by it cannot satisfy such longing. It is only Christ, whose shedding of blood has defeated death and won us for himself, and whose life both calls and enables us to attain glorious and eternal communion with the Father, who is the definitive solution to the desires of the mysterious human heart. “I am the way and the truth and the life” (Jn 14:6), says Jesus—this day, right here, right now.
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Photo Credit: Aimee Volgelsang
Deacon Frederick Bartels is a member of the Catholic clergy who serves the Church in the diocese of Pueblo. He holds an MA in Theology and Educational Ministry and is a Catholic educator, public speaker, and evangelist who strives to infuse culture with the saving principles of the gospel. For more, visit YouTube, iTunes and Google Play.