Monday, March 13, 2017
CATHOLIC SOCIAL TEACHING: Sacredness and Dignity of the Human Person
“This teaching rests on one basic principle: individual human beings are the foundation, the cause and the end of every social institution. That is necessarily so, for men are by nature social beings.”
—St. John XXIII, Mater et Magistra, # 219 (Mother and Teacher, on Christianity and social progress)
It’s a pretty radical thing to say that human beings are made in the image and likeness of God. That’s what we’re talking about when we reflect on the sacredness and dignity of the human person—each one of us, every human on the planet, reflects the Divine, the Creator, God. Each of us shines forth that which is holy. None of us is left out; God is present in a unique and irreplaceable way in every human being.
What, then, happens when that unique expression of God is silenced, when that holy light is dimmed? What does our world lose? As we look out upon our global community, it’s not hard to see that some of us have access to more opportunities than others. It’s not hard to see that some of us would rather pretend that human dignity is not universal, that there are people in whom God does not dwell.
That leaves us with two important tasks. First, we must reflect on ourselves. Are we manifesting the love of God to others in a way that is in line with our own human dignity? How have we fallen short—and how have our shortcomings negatively impacted those with whom we share that dignity? Second, how are we called to respond to hateful language, to unfair social structures, to bigotry and violence that seeks to rob others of the human dignity which God has given?
We need only look to Jesus in answer, Jesus who stood with those on the margins, affirming their dignity, their right to an abundant life even if it meant his own death.