“The Lord God then took the man and settled him in the Garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it.” (Gen. 2; 15). The second story of Creation found in the book of Genesis ends with these words, telling clearly God’s purpose in creating Man. The first chapters in Genesis tell of the Fall of Man, and his expulsion from the garden. However, in His goodness God did not destroy Man, but made for him a place to live, essentially, a new “Eden”, although in a fallen state. Even though Man was no longer in the paradise of the garden, he was still charged with the cultivation and care of the world. This charge, of course, is much more complex than cultivating a field or caring for the eco – system, although this is included in Man’s task. If this then is Man’s role on earth, then how can we go about doing it? In order to fully understand Man’s role on earth and how to fulfill it, we must inevitably spend much time in the search of the Truths our Creator has given us about Himself and the world we are to care for.
The purpose of Man is to know, love, and serve God. However, if Man is to know anything, he must first become educated in the field he is contemplating; either by observation or by learning from one who already knows much about it. Because God is infinitely beyond our comprehension, we can only learn about Him through His revelations.Thus, in order to cultivate and care for the earth, we must first become “educated” in God.
Now, God in His great goodness has revealed Himself to us not only in His inspired written word; He has left His print everywhere, from the earth to the sky. However, He has revealed Himself most especially and clearly in the very elusive thing we call “Truth”. Truth does not change with the setting and the rising of the sun. It either is, or it is not. A well-worn example is the truth of 2+2=4. No matter where a person may travel, even out to the ends of space, two plus two will still equal four. This is an example of the truth man seeks – the unchanging truth that is true simply because it is. We call this search “Education”.
The capability of this search is unique to Man; it is his trademark. It was for this reason that he was endowed by God with the gift of reasoning: to sift through the things of this world and perceive them as either truth or falsity. But this gift of reason if not well guarded and kept healthy and whole, like any other gift, can become twisted and disordered. Falsities can be accepted as truths, and the Truth be rejected as falsity. Man, by his negligence in the training of his wonderful mind can fall short of his charge of cultivation, and by rejecting his purpose can lower himself from the Divine Dignity granted by that charge. Thus, that which we call education is not merely the search of that truth which is God, but also the preservation of our human dignity; for after all, it is this capability of reasoning that distinguishes us from monkeys.This, then, should be a Catholic’s perspective of education: the search of the truth from God who essentially is truth, for it is through Him that all truth is, and by which Man’s first step in fulfilling his purpose is completed.
The task of cultivating the earth is no simple or short task; it is a lifelong struggle by which we gain the eternal happiness in Heaven we were predestined for. However, if we are to properly fulfill our purpose in this life, we must gain a thorough knowledge of that which we are charged with caring; this inevitably leads us to our creator. In this sense, it is fitting to say that the purpose of this life is education, because the purpose of education is eternal life.