Dear Brothers and Sisters,
What an extraordinary blessing to continue reading Pope St. John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter, Mulieris Dignitatem! I know I read it more than once since he wrote it in 1988, but re-reading it I have learned so much more! In fact I’m amazed especially by the fact that I did not encourage more people to read it. This afternoon, I’m continuing chapter 3 in the section on Person - Communion - Gift:
…Genesis 2 :1 8-25: “I will make him a helper fit for him”. The biblical context enables us to understand this in the sense that the woman must “help” the man - and in his turn he must help her - first of all by the very fact of their “being human persons”. In a certain sense this enables man and woman to discover their humanity ever anew and to confirm its whole meaning. We can easily understand that - on this fundamental level - it is a question of a “help” on the part of both, and at the same time a mutual “help”. To be human means to be called to interpersonal communion. The text of Genesis 2:18-25 shows that marriage is the first and, in a sense, the fundamental dimension of this call. But it is not the only one. The whole of human history unfolds within the context of this call. In this history, on the basis of the principle of mutually being “for” the other, in interpersonal “communion”, there develops in humanity itself, in accordance with God’s will, the integration of what is “masculine” and what is “feminine”. The biblical texts, from Genesis onwards, constantly enable us to discover the ground in which the truth about man is rooted, the solid and inviolable ground amid the many changes of human existence.
This truth also has to do with the history of salvation. In this regard a statement of the Second Vatican Council is especially significant. In the chapter on “The Community of Mankind” in the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes, we read: “The Lord Jesus, when he prayed to the Father ‘that all may be one … as we are one’ (Jn 17: 21-22), opened up vistas closed to human reason. For he implied a certain likeness between the union of the divine Persons and the union of God’s children in truth and charity. This likeness reveals that man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for its own sake, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of self”.
With these words, the Council text presents a summary of the whole truth about man and woman - a truth which is already outlined in the first chapters of the Book of Genesis, and which is the structural basis of biblical and Christian anthropology. Man - whether man or woman - is the only being among the creatures of the visible world that God the Creator “has willed for its own sake”; that creature is thus a person. Being a person means striving towards self-realization (the Council text speaks of self-discovery), which can only be achieved “through a sincere gift of self”. The model for this interpretation of the person is God himself as Trinity, as a communion of Persons. To say that man is created in the image and likeness of God means that man is called to exist “for” others, to become a gift.
God help us to hear this: created in God’s Image and Likeness means we are called to exist “for” others, to become a gift!