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Religion Library: Roman Catholicism

Human Nature and the Purpose of Existence

Written by: Cynthia Stewart

Salvation is the goal of human existence. Humans were created to live in harmony with God, a relationship broken through sin. But just as the first humans represented all humanity when they chose sin over obedience, so Jesus the Christ represented all humanity when he chose obedience to God over personal desire. With his death and resurrection, Catholics believe, Jesus the Christ repaired the basis of the human-divine relationship, making it once again possible for humans to attain the goal for which they were created.

The way that humans experience this repaired relationship is through grace, which is the loving benevolence of God freely offered to humans. Grace is a vitally important concept for Catholics, who believe that God offers grace to humans at all times, although in their brokenness they often refuse to accept it. When humans do accept the grace offered to them, their brokenness is overcome and they are able to be co-creators with God in the good.

Catholics believe that a repaired relationship with God leads to actions of goodness since it returns humans to their original purpose of loving and serving God and each other. These are not two separate aims: humans serve God by serving others. This service can take place in very concrete ways, such as teaching children, helping the poor and caring for the sick, or in more meditative ways, such as praying for others and performing penance for their sins.

Study Questions:
     1.    Are humans inherently good or evil? Explain.
     2.    Why is sin an ontological problem?
     3.    How to Catholics understand predestination and free will? What serves as a moral guide?
     4.    Why is grace important to the human-divine relationship?
     5.    Why is service to humanity an important part of Catholicism’s purpose of existence?


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