The animal in all of us

We are supposed to be rational animals, rationality being the quality that distinguishes us from the other animals. But let’s never forget that we are and will always be an animal also that is governed by natural, physical, biological, chemical, social, economic laws, etc.

And these latter laws have impulses that often go against the dictates of rationality. That’s why, especially in our vulnerable moments, when we are tired, sleepy, intoxicated by drinks, or when we are not yet in our full senses, etc., we are usually assailed by these impulses. And so, we really have to be most careful. We have to be properly guarded and protected from these eventualities.

What we have to do is to undertake a lifelong process of integrating all these aspects together with rationality as the guiding and directing principle. It is rationality that indicates that we too are spiritual beings meant to have a supernatural goal that we can achieve through God’s grace and our all-out effort. Yes, it’s our rational nature that tells us that we are meant beyond, but not against, the physical and natural aspects of our life.

The challenge therefore is how to carry out this very tricky and demanding task of integrating all these aspects. And for this, we should first of all rely on the grace of God, always asking for it even if it is readily given to us. That’s because we often take God’s grace for granted, and thus make ourselves the improper ground unable to take advantage of the grace that is sown on it.

Yes, we should never forget our animality no matter how high a level we think we have achieved in terms of our rationality and spirituality. We will always be hounded by the erratic impulses of our animality.

Remember St. Paul lamenting about this lifelong predicament of ours. “I see another law at work in my body,” he said, “warring against the law of my mind and holding me captive to the law of sin that dwells within me.” (Rom 7,23)

We need to discipline and purify the animality of our humanity. That’s why Christ, the pattern of our humanity and savior of our damaged humanity, told us clearly that we need to deny ourselves, carry the cross and follow him. (cfr. Lk 9,23) We should be careful with pampering our body too much. It’s is not a matter of repressing our bodily impulses. It is rather a matter of directing them properly.

So, with respect to our passions, those strong emotions that often overpower the indications of reason and faith, we need to mortify them so as to purify them of their tendencies toward evil.

St. Paul said: “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Gal 5,24) We can never over-emphasize the need to ‘crucify’ our passions and desires the way Christ was crucified and by so doing rendered death to all kinds of evil in man and in the world.

The ideal to pursue is that our passions and desires would be those of Christ. We have to convert our passions and desires into those of love, a love that is not afraid of anything, a love that can conquer anything. It is a love that, while involving struggle and some kind of warfare, will give us peace and joy that the world cannot give. (cfr. Jn 14,27)

In other words, we have to strive to be a spiritual man instead of a carnal man as described by St. Paul: “The person without the Spirit (carnal man) does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.

“The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, for ‘Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?’ But we have the mind of Christ.” (1 Cor 2,14-16)