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Our human dignity in the light of the Resurrection

The Catholic Church’s recent declaration Dignitas infinita (Infinite Dignity) by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith emphasises the profound dignity of every human person.

At the heart of this document is the conviction that “every human person possesses an infinite dignity, inalienably grounded in his or her very being, which prevails in and beyond every circumstance, state, or situation the person may ever encounter.”

The document goes on to state that the “principle of the primacy and protection of human dignity is recognisable by reason alone and is further confirmed by Revelation.”

The root of human dignity remains in the creation of the human person in the image and likeness of God, “endowed with a spiritual and immortal soul, intelligence and free will, and ordered to God and called to eternal beatitude”. The human person is created in “the image and likeness of God” and redeemed in Jesus Christ.

The Church’s teachings on human dignity have profound connections to this Sunday’s Gospel of Luke 24:35–48.

In the passage, the risen Christ appears to His disciples who are startled and terrified, thinking they are seeing a ghost. But Jesus reassures them, showing them His wounded hands and feet, thus affirming the reality of His human nature—the very same human nature He assumed in the Incarnation.

He says to them, “Why are you so agitated, and why are these doubts rising in your hearts? Look at my hands and feet; yes, it is I indeed. Touch me and see for yourselves; a ghost has no flesh and bones as you can see I have.”

As the Dignitas infinita declaration states, “In the mystery of the Incarnation, the Son of God confirmed the dignity of the body and soul which constitute the human being.”

Jesus Christ, in His resurrected state, still bears the marks of His suffering, underscoring the Church’s teaching that the dignity of the human person is not diminished by weakness, infirmity, or even the loss of the “human figure”.

The passage from Luke 24 also reflects the Church’s teaching that the dignity of the human person has profound practical and social implications. The risen Christ not only appears to His disciples but also “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures,” commissioning them to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins to all nations.

This commissioning reflects the Church’s understanding that the defence of human dignity is not merely a theoretical principle but has real-world consequences.

By proclaiming forgiveness to all nations, the risen Christ affirms the universal scope of His redemption and the equal dignity of all people, regardless of their circumstances or past actions.

Human dignity is not contingent on external factors like a person’s circumstances, abilities, or appearances. Rather, it is an inherent quality of the human person that arises from our capacity for moral reasoning, our social relationships, and our fundamental existence as created beings.

This dignity cannot be treated merely as a means to an end but must be respected and protected as an end in itself.

The Church’s teachings on the dignity of the human person call us to affirm the inherent worth and value of every individual, and to work for the protection and flourishing of all, especially the most vulnerable, through practical acts of mercy, compassion, and justice.