Jan 2, 2024
You and I are made in the image and likeness of God. When we forget that we are in fact sons and daughters of the Father, then we do the same thing Adam and Eve did: we fashion for ourselves fig leaves to try and cover that filial identity that is ours. We define ourselves by the clothes we have fashioned - by our jobs, our income brackets, by our families, our gifts, and even by our wounds.
First, it’s important for you to know what it means to be an image. An image is something that represents something in some form. When I see an image, it usually beckons me into something deeper, something beyond the image itself. An image touches on something that it, in itself, is not. We marvel at all of the images around us and forget about the image that we carry within us. Who created you? God. And if an image represents something that the image is not, then that’s the first piece of good news today: You. Are. Not. God. And what a relief because any time that I try to be God, I fail miserably.
The Council of Chalcedon was the fourth ecumenical council in the history of the Christian Church and this council established the Nicene Creed and also declared that Christ is fully human and fully divine - something that we do not ponder enough. Because if Jesus was human like you and me, then it means something life-changing for your humanity. It means that you are good. God became flesh and dwelt among us. He took on flesh to show us that our flesh is not something to be hated or scorned, and through grace, our flesh is transformed. In the year 318, St. Athanasius wrote a small treatise, On the Incarnation, and in it, he explained that nature was given to us to remind us of God, but when that ceased to be enough, God sent his Son. He wrote, “For as, when the likeness painted on a panel has been effaced by stains from without, he whose likeness it is must needs come once more to enable the portrait to be renewed on the same wood: for, for the sake of his picture, even the mere wood on which it is painted is not thrown away, but the outline is renewed upon it.” Your flesh can be renewed when it is placed next to the image of the Son.
Growing up, there was a saying that used to float around Christian circles: ”God loves you just the way that you are, but he loves you too much to leave you that way.” Heard of that? I hate that saying. God loves you just the way you are! Period. You don’t have to do anything to earn that love. If you changed absolutely nothing today, He would love you just the same which is more than you could ever imagine. The caveat is this… it’s not that He forces change upon you because of His great love, it is in that great love that it is revealed that you cannot be satisfied with maintaining the status quo, with remaining the same. That Love changes you.
There’s the great line in Redemptoris Hominis from Pope St. John Paul II, “Man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it." This, as has already been said, is why Christ the Redeemer fully reveals man to himself. You cannot know yourself. Your life is senseless if love is not revealed to you, if you do not encounter love. If you do not experience love and make it your own or participate intimately in it, then you will never fully realize who you are. It’s a good thing for you and for me that love is not some abstract idea or feeling. Love has a name, and it is Jesus.
What would you be like if you never forgot that you are loved? We often forget that when things don’t go the way we had planned, when we are frustrated with a person or a circumstance, when we look at life through a lens of power and not one of communion, we will always forget that we are loved. So when we forget, we grasp at it. Adam and Eve forgot in the garden - they forgot that they were sons and daughters of God, forgot that God is a good and faithful father; they forgot that they are loved. And that primordial amnesia is repeated in all of us and is always the root of our sin.
The late Pope Benedict XVI said something like this in a homily early in his pontificate: We all want to leave a lasting mark, that’s not in money, it’s not in talent, the only lasting place is in the human soul, created by God for eternity. After a certain time, longer or shorter, all these things disappear. The only thing that lasts forever is the human soul, the human person created by God for eternity. The fruit that endures is therefore all that we have sown in human souls: love, knowledge, a gesture capable of touching hearts, words that open the soul to joy in the Lord. So let us go and pray to the Lord to help us bear fruit that endures. Only in this way will the earth be changed from a valley of tears to a garden of God. Let us begin with ourselves first. May your soul be the first one to change through the power of God’s love.