In all of God’s creation, what is His most significant, His most important one? Is it not the human person? When we go back to the beginning, to the Book of Genesis, we find God creating light out of darkness and order out of chaos. We find God creating the sun, the moon, and the stars, along with the seas, the mountains, and the animals. Then toward the end of the first chapter of Genesis we read:
“And God saw that it was good. Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.’”
The most important point to note is that God made man and woman in His own image and likeness. Among all of the things that God has created none except the man and the woman were made in God’s own image and likeness. The significance and importance of that cannot be overstated. Because the human person is made in God’s own likeness we are of supreme importance and possess a dignity that is high above all else in God’s creation. The human person must be respected above all else.
In the Baltimore Catechism we find the famous question: “Why did God make you?” The answer known worldwide by Catholics is: “God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in the next.” Yet in human history that answer is almost universally ignored. The world has for the most part treated human persons as merely useful.
History’s sad account is of kings and potentates, emperors and dictators simply using people to suit their own imperial purposes in wars upon wars. Political and economic systems regard humans as belonging to the State, or the Party. Capitalism has treated human labor simply as a cost of production, placing human labor as only useful and as a drain on the bottom line of corporations’ profitability.
Holy Scripture gives us a different perspective, one telling us that we are deliberately and intentionally made. King David in one of his psalms (Psalm 139) sings of God’s purposes:
“You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb. I praise you, so wonderfully you made me; wonderful are your works! My very self you knew; my bones were not hidden from you, When I was being made in secret, fashioned as in the depths of the earth. Your eyes foresaw my actions; in your book all are written down; my days were shaped, before one came to be. How precious to me are your designs, O God; how vast the sum of them!”
In the Old Testament, we hear the prophet Isaiah proclaim: The LORD said to me: You are my servant, Israel, through whom I show my glory. Now the LORD has spoken who formed me as his servant from the womb…While we can imagine the Lord speaking those words to a great prophet like Isaiah, can you imagine the Lord speaking those words to you? Probably not. But I would like to suggest that you should. Many of us consider ourselves to be insignificant. We number ourselves among the little people. We admire football players, basketball players, and other sports heroes. Hollywood stars and rock stars receive a lot of public adulation. And there are others among us whom we consider to be very significant people. But ourselves? Well… most of us don’t consider ourselves to be that significant. But we should.
We might think that the first chapter of John’s Gospel (v. 29-34) is all about John the Baptist. Well, not really. It’s really all about Jesus Christ and involves John the Baptist pointing Him out and urging people to pay attention to Jesus. Jesus said of John the Baptist: Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist…But John the Baptist said of himself: I am not worthy to carry his sandals. Still, John the Baptist must have recognized that he had a significant role to play. He knew he was to testify to the presence of the Messiah amongst us. He knew God wanted him to point Jesus out, to proclaim His presence, to announce the arrival of the Messiah. John was quite aware of his part to play in God’s scheme of things. But he was also aware that some people thought he, John the Baptist, was the Messiah, not Jesus — and John did not want that to happen. Thus he declared that he was not worthy to even carry Jesus’ sandals.
What I want to say to you today is that you, too, each one of you here, is significant in God’s great scheme of things. Let me point out two things about each one of you. Each one of you has his or her own completely unique DNA coding. No one who ever was, or who is living now, or whoever will live in the future can have your DNA coding. You are completely one of a kind. No one else will ever be exactly like you. Even if you are someone’s identical twin, you twin will not be who you are. Moreover there are your fingerprints. No one who ever was, or who is now, or who will yet be born will ever have your fingerprints. They are completely unique to you. They identify only you.
That said, let me go on to point out that only you can love God just as you. While God has brought millions and billions of other people into existence, He has never made anyone else just like you. This means that if God can never be loved as just who you are by anyone else other than you. If you don’t love God as who you are then He will never be loved like that by anyone else. You are special. See how significant you are in the eyes of God and in the heart of God?! You are very special to God… very important to Him. Let me say it again: there will never be another you and if you don’t love God just as who you are He will never be loved like that… ever!
Here’s another thing. You play a significant role in the lives of those around you. Your example in dealing with life is significant and important for those around you who know you. Life is unfair. Life is difficult. Life brings suffering… a lot of suffering… with it. How you deal with it will be very significant to any number of people who know you. But life has its joys, too. Life brings good fortune and happiness to us. How you handle success, along with the generosity in your heart, can be of great significance to people who know you. How you handle both success and failure has a significant impact on others.
The great prophet Isaiah had to deal with failure, even near despair. At times he sounded as if he were in the midst of burnout. Said he: Though I thought I had toiled in vain, and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength, yet my reward is with the LORD, my recompense is with my God. (Isaiah 49:4) It was that same Isaiah, however, whose words we just heard in today’s first reading who said: The LORD said to me: You are my servant, Israel, through whom I show my glory. Now the LORD has spoken who formed me as his servant from the womb that Jacob may be brought back to him… I am made glorious in the sight of the LORD, and my God is now my strength!
Let me point out that each one of you here was formed by God in your mother’s womb. Each one of you here has a destiny that God has given you. God knew you in your mother’s womb.
This brings me to the matter of your faith, your spirituality, and your religious devotion. You may never know what significance you have in the hearts and souls of people who know you. You many never know how your faith has built up the faith of those around you… especially members of your family and your close friends. You may not realize what God is doing with your life. But God knows of your importance even though you may not realize it yourself.
Have faith, then. Have faith based on what Jesus said of John the Baptist: Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. (Matthew 11:11) Greatness in the eyes of this world doesn’t amount to much — or last very long. What matters, and what is everlasting, is your greatness in the eyes of God. What matters is your response to the love in God’s heart for you in your uniqueness, in your individuality, in your importance to Him in His great scheme of things. Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
Each one of us, no matter how little we may consider ourselves to be, is important to God and is important to others as well.
REVEREND CHARLES IRVIN, or “Father Charlie,” as he is known, was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on January 6, 1933. He was raised and educated there, graduating from the University of Michigan’s Law School. After a brief career as an attorney he entered the seminary and was ordained a priest in 1967. Shortly thereafter he began an eleven-year ministry at St. Mary’s Student Chapel in Ann Arbor. A rich variety of ministries followed including appointments to many advisory positions in the Church and three other pastorates. In the early 1970s he began writing columns for several Catholic newspapers in Michigan. In 1999 he was appointed founding editor of Faith magazine, published by the Diocese of Lansing, Michigan. Today, the magazine serves seven dioceses.