MONDAY MEDITATION: What Makes Us Human? (September 18)

“I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other. This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other.” — John 13:34-35

I just watched a fascinating documentary on Netflix titled, “Unknown: Cave of Bones” (you can watch the trailer here). Archaeologists explore a cave where they found bones of a distant relative of modern humans, dating back 335,000 years. This ancient ancestor, called homo naledi, dates so far back that if we saw them, we would think they were aliens. They were shorter than us, with long arms and legs as well as a smaller brain.

What is fascinating is that this race, barely qualifying as human, buried their dead. In other words, they grieved when someone died, and to deal with that grief they created rituals where they took the deceased and formally laid her/him to rest deep in the bowels of a cave.

It is as if embedded in the fabric of who we are, dating back hundreds of thousands of years to humans barely resembling ourselves, is the basic ability to empathize and show compassion. The brain may develop and evolve through the millenia, but it appears that the size of our hearts has always been large. It’s what makes us who we are.

Jesus reminded us of this, and said that we need to live up to that identity. When we tap our potential to be compassionate, we tap our potential to end wars, build communities, and save the environment.

Funny how our future may depend on remembering this lesson from our past.

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