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God shares with us his beauty, his power, and his glory in the wonderful world which he created. The Holy Bible begins with the book of Genesis, in which we find the story of the world's creation. In order better to appreciate the almighty power of God we must know that to create means to make something out of nothing. The entire universe came into existence simply because God wanted it to exist! He did not use any materials to create the world as we must when we make something. Rather he had only to think of the universe and it was created! This is why the book of Genesis tells us that God had only to say, "Let there be light", and there was light (Gen 1:3).
The inspired story of creation was originally part of the oral tradition (religious stories) of the Jewish people. They passed this story on to each generation in order to teach and remind the people that:
1. There is only one God
and he is the Creator of all that exists - the pagans often believed that
each of their gods created different things in the world.
2. God created the world in an orderly way and as a way of sharing his love with man - many pagans believed that the world was the result of a war between their gods or that it happened by accident.
3. Everything created by God is good - the pagans believed many created things to be the work of an evil god who liked to make mankind suffer.
The Creation of Mankind
The book of Genesis also tells us about the creation of the first man and the first woman, the parents of the entire human race:
Then God said: "Let us make man in our own image, after our likeness. . ." God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them saying; "Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that move on the earth," God also said: "See, I give you every seed-bearing plant all over the earth and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit on it to be your food" (Gen 1:26-27).
This account tells us that God had a greater plan for man than he had for the rest of the world of nature; he gave man authority over the beasts and plants of the earth, which were created for man's right use (such as food, clothing, or enjoyment of nature). The second chapter of Genesis gives another account of creation.
The Lord God said: "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a suitable partner for him" . . . So the Lord God cast a deep sleep on the man, and while he was asleep, he took out one of his ribs. . . and built up into a woman the rib he had taken from the man (Gen 2:18, 19, 21-22).
The parents of the human race were called Adam and Eve, because Adam means "man", and Eve means "mother of the living".
The Human Person
In Genesis we see that after God made the human body, he "blew the breath of life (into Adam) and so man became a living being" (Gen 2:7). This tells us that we are each composed of both a physical body and a spiritual soul. The body is made of matter (as are all things that can be touched, seen, etc.) and so this makes us like the beasts and other physical creatures. But the soul is spiritual; that is, like God it is invisible but real. This is why Scripture tells us that we are made in God's image and likeness; for we share with him in the world of the spirit and, unlike the other physical creatures, we will live for ever since we have souls that are immortal.
The soul has two spiritual powers that make us very much like our Creator: the intellect and the will. By the power of the intellect we are able to think, reason, and know right from wrong. The will allows us to choose freely what we shall do or say or think; it gives us the ability to love or to hate, to do good or to sin. We all know that no other earthly creature can do these things.
Both the body and the soul are important to man, otherwise God would not have created them. Even though the soul is immortal and has great powers, without the body we would not be true and complete human beings. God commands that we respect and take care of both of these gifts which he has given us.
God Gave Man Special Gifts
when God created Adam and Eve he gave them more than their natural bodies and souls; he gave them special gifts. They had complete harmony and peace in their lives; they never argued or acted selfishly toward each other. Also, God kept them free from suffering, sickness, and death. But most of all he gave them a share in his own divine life with the gift of sanctifying grace. This grace made them more than his creatures: it made them his children and heirs to Heaven, where they would live with him for ever! These gifts would be theirs and would be passed on to all of their descendants. . . All that was required of them was that they love and serve him all their lives.
The Creation of the Angels
Before we look at the events that led to man's loss of these gifts, we must know that God first created, from nothing, pure spirits whom we call angels. They are intelligent persons like us but they do not have physical bodies as we do. Angels possess greater intelligence and power than human beings, but they too were created to worship and serve God.
After God had created the angels he put them to a test to see if they would freely love him and obey his commands. Some of them, led by Lucifer, refused to serve the Lord; they rebelled against him. So God created Hell, where those who do not want to be with him are sent. These angels were good when they were created by God, but they became evil by their own free choice. We call these disobedient spirits fallen angels or demons. They are still led by Lucifer, who is also known as Satan or the devil. They try to turn all creation away from God, for they do not want God's creatures to serve him.
The spirits who loved God and obeyed his commands are called faithful or good angles; they were led by Michael the Archangel. These angels assist us in living holy Christian lives so that we will serve God on earth and come to live with him in Heaven when we die. God has assigned a good angel to each one of us; this angel is called our guardian angel and his mission is to help us on our way to Heaven.
The Fall of Man
Like the angels, God put our first parents to a test to see if they would truly love and serve him. He gave Adam and Eve a beautiful garden in which to live, the Garden of Eden (also called Paradise), and he told them that they could eat anything in that garden except the fruit of a certain tree.
Well, the devil saw this as an opportunity to lead Adam and Eve away from God. he entered the garden and tempted our first parents to sin. He said that if they ate the fruit of the forbidden tree they would become gods, just like their Creator!
Poor Adam and Eve! They believed the lies of Satan and ate the forbidden fruit. At that moment they knew that they had sinned, and they were filled with shame. They tried to hide from God, which is, of course, an impossible thing to do.
The Lord called to them and told Adam and Eve that they must now be banished from Paradise and be subject to suffering, sickness, and death. Much worse, now they no longer lived in the state of sanctifying grace which had made them the children and friends of God, heirs to the happiness of Heaven. Now they passed on to their descendants a human nature that was weakened because of their sin.
We call this sin of Adam original sin because it was the first sin ever to be committed by man and because it is passed on from Adam, the origin of the human race. The terrible results of this sin (separation from God, sickness, death, slavery to sin and the devil) are called the effects of original sin. Except for Jesus and Mary, all human beings since the time of Adam and Eve have been conceived with original sin and its effects on their souls and stand in need of salvation.
We must not think that God was unfair in taking away these gifts; they were gifts freely given and not deserved. In his love he clearly told Adam and Eve what the result of their disobedience would be when he said: You are free to eat from any of the trees in the garden except the tree of knowledge of good and bad. From that tree you shall not eat; and the moment you eat from it you are surely doomed to die (Gen 2:16-17)
God's Promise of a Redeemer
Even though they had sinned against him, God continue to love Adam and Eve. He wanted them, and all the human race who would descend them them, to live in his friendship. So he promised to send us a Redeemer, someone who would be able to reconcile us to God and restore to our souls the life of grace. God told the devil that this Redeemer would come from a woman, saying: I will put enmity (mutual hatred) between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel (Gen 3:15).
Used with the permission of The Ignatius Press 800-799-5534
Index The Catholic Faith
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