What makes a human being a human being? Is it a case of knowing one when we see one? The Bible, however, teaches us not to judge by appearances. And, so, there must be more to it…
Looking at this picture of you, in your first month of life, you looked more like a tadpole than a human being. In fact, scientists say that there is very little difference in appearance between a frog, a mouse, and a human being at the embryonic stage. It’s right and natural that we have commonality with all living things – we are all creatures, after all, created to live on this earth. Didn’t St. Francis sing of our brotherhood and sisterhood with the fish and the birds and the beasts of the fields and woods? The variety of creatures in our planetary home is rich, amazing, and beautiful. Some are green and slimy, able to hop and swim; some are small and furry, able to scurry and gnaw; and some are tall and long-haired, able to write poetry and map stars.
The differences are hidden at the start. But, we can come closest to the secret of the body when we study DNA, the full design of the living being. In this, we are readily identifiable as human from our conception. And as we grow, our human uniqueness becomes more and more revealed, through every stage of development – even through to old age and natural death.
Once you reached your second month of existence, and became classified as a fetus, the differences already began to show, slowly but surely, with the folding and layering of cells. Your mouth and tongue developed, with taste buds and teeth buds – your human mouth, designed to sing a wide spectrum of notes and to speak a variety of complex languages, praising the goodness of life. Your ears were formed – human ears, designed to hear love and to listen to wisdom. Your eyes took shape – human eyes, designed to see wondrous beauty and to seek glimpses of the divine. And you grew your arms and legs, as well as your toes, fingers, and, yes, thumbs on your hands – human hands designed to heal, to build, and to give.
Spiritual traits, gifted to every human being from conception, had these physical counterparts take form in the second month in utero – all while you were still less than one inch tall! Your brain was functioning at just 40 days, and your brain waves grew and responded to the changes and developments of your body, your growing muscles ready and active to move at will. You kicked, flipped, and swam at this age – you even had hiccups! With not all organs fully functioning yet, and your bodily and facial features needing refinement, you still looked a bit alien – but this little being depicted, growing in the womb, is definitively human, through and through. This little being is you – amazingly and beautifully human, beloved by God.
© 2016 Christina Chase
originally posted on my parish’s website:
Web M.D. (including first image)
Archdiocese of Baltimore (second image)
Although crippled by disease, I am fully alive in love. I write about the profound wonder and terrible beauty of life while living with physical disability and severe dependency. Unafraid to ask life's big questions, I was briefly an atheist and considered other religions before finding, in God's choice to intimately share our humanity, what it truly means to be fully human. A revert to the Catholic Faith, I blog weekly and have written a book called It's Good to Be Here.