In the first reading from Genesis the inspired author recounts God’s creation of the first human being in history. In the first place, he says that God formed man from “clay” (Gn 2:7). This signifies the material substance of his human nature, his human body. According to the Catechism, this means that God created man as a material or bodily being from the beginning (CCC 362). In reading this creation account, Benedict XVI says that there is “something humbling” here for man (In the Beginning, 42). For he is reminded in this creation story that God calls him to understand and accept in humility that he is not God the Creator, but merely His human creature. As a result, he has a beginning and an end, as a created bodily person. In this sense, he is not only conceived and born, but also dies. For he is dust and to dust he shall return (Gn 3:19). In Scripture, this return to dust for man through death represents a consequence of the original sin of Adam and Eve. Although this Genesis story is humbling for man, Benedict says that there is also “something consoling” here. He suggests that all humans are naturally good as bodily beings, because they have all been “formed from God’s good earth” (In the Beginning, 43). This means that they share a natural solidarity and equal dignity among one another through the goodness of their common bodily nature. Accordingly, God created all people from the earth to form one human family (In the Beginning, 44).
For Benedict, the second substance of human nature that completes man as a person is his spiritual soul. In Genesis, the inspired author says that after God formed the bodily nature of man from the clay of the earth, God breathed in him the breath of life (Gn 2:7). This breath represents the life principle of the soul. According to Benedict, the soul does not come from the earth, but from heaven inasmuch as God directly creates the soul of man. For this reason, in “the human being heaven and earth touch one another” (In the Beginning 44). This is his greatest consolation. This Lent may all Catholics honor the dignity, goodness and solidarity of all human beings as bodily, spiritual persons of God through acts of justice and charity. Br. Mariano