Are You Smarter than a Fifth-Grader?
Archdiocese of Washington: Year of Faith series
Dominican Brothers of the Province of St. Joseph
Once, when I was a fifth-grader, a friend’s mother was giving me a ride home after his birthday party. During that half hour ride home, I talked and joked with both of them. When we finally arrived at my house, my dad was there it took less than a minute for her to light up and say, “You are your father’s son!” It’s true; I am just like my father, who always has had a particular way of joking around with others.
I think this is a good starting point for our next question in the, “Are You Smarter than a Fifth-grader?” series, which is about our being created in the image and likeness of God. Now, we all know what it means to say that someone is “a striking image” of his father. Beyond physical similarities, there are many likenesses in personality and temperament which we see in parents and children.
But how can we be in God’s “image?” What sort of “likeness” or similarity can we have to God?
It’s easy to start with what it can’t be. We don’t have the same chin or smile as God does. If we’re going to find out how we’re like God we’re going to have to look higher.
The book of Genesis is a fruitful place to start our reflection. It recounts God’s creation of man in two stages. It says that, “then the Lord God formed the man out of the dust of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7). This account portrays man as having two essential principles. He is formed from “the dust of the ground,” made of stuff like all animals are. But there’s more– he also has the breath of life blown into his nostrils. There is something higher in man than mere matter. Man also has a soul.
It is finally here that we see our likeness to God. Because of our soul we have the power to know and to love. Rocks and stones, trees and plants are only things. But because of our soul, “the human individual possesses the dignity of a person, who is not just something but someone” (CCC 357). For, “of all visible creatures only man is “able to know and love his creator”” (CCC 356). This grounds all of the awesome abilities which human beings have– of entering into communion with other persons, of responding to God in grace, and responding to God in faith and love (CCC 357). No other animal tells jokes, prays, gets married or writes poems. No other animal searches for happiness and meaning in life.
God’s creation of man is indeed very special. The Psalmist asks God about this and wonders, saying:
Yet you have made him little less than a god,
crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him rule over the works of your hands,
put all things at his feet (Psalm 8: 6-7)
God created all of the visible creation for us. But He also gave us an additional gift: the ability to give all of it back to Him in love.
Join us on November 15th for our next “Are You Smarter than a Fifth-Grader?” post.
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