The Mind-Blowing Reality of Being Made in the Image of God, 5th Tuesday (I), February 7, 2017

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Tuesday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time, Year I
Votive Mass for Refugees
February 7, 2017
Gen 1:20-2:4, Ps 8, Mt 7:1-13

 

To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below: 

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • In today’s reading from the first chapter of the Bible, we come to one of the most important things ever said: “God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them.” We are made in God’s image and God ordered everything else in creation toward us.
  • This is a truth that should first fill us with wonder. In the Responsorial Psalm, we see that astonishment, commenting on Creation in the Genesis narrative: “When I behold your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you set in place,” the Psalmist prays, “What is man that you should be mindful of him, or the son of man that you should care for him? You have made him [as your image] little less than the angels, and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him rule over the works of your hands, putting all things under his feet. All sheep and oxen, yes, and the beasts of the field, The birds of the air, the fishes of the sea, and whatever swims the paths of the seas.” We ought never to stop expressing our wonder not just at Creation in general but at how God made us in his image to exercise his dominion over creation.
  • Secondly, this truth should drive us to unveil more and more the mystery it means.
  • Over the course of centuries, for many the expression “imago Dei” meant two things that distinguished us from the rest of creation. We are rational; we can think like God. And we are free; we can choose like God. We are called, therefore, to think with the mind and thoughts of God and to choose the good as God always does.
  • St. John Paul II brought the notion of the image of God to greater light when we said to be made in the imago Dei is to be constituted a loving communion of persons. God is Trinitarian. He lives in eternal communion.  There are two important indications of this truth in the passage. The first is in the expression, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” Jews reading this for centuries tried to come up with explanations as to why God spoke in the first person plural when in almost the entirety of the rest of the Hebrew Bible he spoke in first-person singular. When Jesus eventually came and revealed that He and the Father were one that they would send us the Holy Spirit and then send us out to baptize in the name (not names) of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we began to understand better the meaning of the first person plural (even though there are three persons in one God). The second indication is what happened when God actually created man in his image: “God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them.” The eternal God is neither male nor female. Until the Incarnation, there was never a body. To create man in his own image male and female is an indication he was creating man to live a Trinitarian existence, to live in a loving communion of persons. Male and female, man and woman, are meant to live in a nuptial communion that similar to the way the love of the Father and the Son spirited the Holy Spirit so the love of man and woman could generate a third person who is both a fruit of their love and a means by which that love can grow. To live as a communion of persons in love is to live according to the divine image and likeness. It’s the way we’re called to live with God and others. How could God, seeing our nature according to the pattern of his own, not pronounce it “very good”? The real purpose of our life, having been created by God who is love in love and for love is to live in a loving communion with God and with others.
  • The fourth way we can understand the imago Dei is through sonship. As we learned from our study of the Letter to the Hebrews over the past four weeks, everything in creation was geared toward Jesus Christ, and the Church has us read Hebrews before Genesis at the beginning of Ordinary Time so that we understand Genesis in a Chriwstocentric key. In Colossians, St. Paul tells us that Christ is the icon, the “image of the invisible God” (1:15), which means that the “image” in whom we are made is a “son.” We’re more than “creatures.” We’re made children and are called to behave like children, entrusting ourselves to the Father as Jesus encouraged us, knowing that our Father knows what we need, that he won’t give us a stone when we ask for bread, that he will hear whatever prayer we make in union with the Son. This is the fourth means by which we grow ever more to become whom we are.
  • Finally, we are in God’s image by our capacity for work. Immediately after saying that we were created in God’s image and likeness, Genesis describes three commands he gave to us as his image: to “increase and multiply,” to “have dominion,” and to “fill and subdue.” God gave us a share in his wondrous act of creating other human beings, in his dominion over all creatures, in his drawing forth from creation all types of potential, everything from food, to oil, to computer chips from sand. We grow in God’s image the more we work in communion with Him whom Jesus said was “working still!”
  • Jesus came down from heaven to earth to restore us to the image of God after sin had damaged it. When Adam and Eve sinned, confusion entered human minds, weakness will, division in communion, shame and patricide into the relationship of filiation (as we see in the Parable of the Prodigal Son) and sweat, pangs and laziness into work. Jesus came to heal that damage and to restore the meaning of true worship of God which would help to reestablish us in the divine image through becoming more and more whom we adore. We see in the Gospel how Jesus was attempting to rehabilitate the meaning of true worship of God after the Scribes had distorted it.
  • St. Mark describes the complicated and rigorous practice of Jewish ceremonial washings, something that God had not revealed that he wanted done but something that the Scribes in the fourth and fifth centuries BC had developed in definition of ritual purity. They needed to wash their hands in two directions with one-and-a-half egg shells of clean water, first from the fingertips down and then with the fingertips at the bottom. This was the worship they obsessed about, as if these things were what helped them to grow in God’s image and live in love with each other. They did similar washings of cups, jugs, kettles and beds and questioned why Jesus and his disciples did “not follow the tradition of the elders but instead eat a meal with unclean hands.” Jesus responded with force, calling them hypocrites and applying to them Isaiah’s words, “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts.” They were neglecting the two fold commandment of loving God and neighbor, they were neglecting God directly and indirectly, and obsessing about the human precepts regarding ceremonial washing. Beyond it they were setting aside God’s commandments to uphold their human traditions and pretending that that was the worship Christ wanted. He said that they were neglecting the fourth commandment of honoring father and mother by the tradition of qorban, which meant dedicating debts or loans or savings to God, so that none of their resources would be owed to needy parents. They were nullifying the word of God, Jesus said, and in essence nullifying their identity in God’s image and likeness. Christ came to restore that identity. He came to draw our hearts not just close to God but to unite them with God’s love.
  • The great means by which God renews us in his image is the Mass. This is where we are able to recalibrate our thoughts by the Word of God, to reexamine our choices and become truly free in union with the Truth, to enter into literal holy Communion with Christ and into communion with other members of his Mystical Body, and to be strengthened for our work of perfecting God’s creation. This is where, as we prayed yesterday, God takes the wonder of Creation and surpasses it by the “even more wondrous” reality of the Redemption. If the Psalmist asked today, with awe in regard to creation, “What is man that you should be mindful of him, or the son of man that you should care for him?,” how much greater must be our awe at God’s keeping us in mind and caring for us in a way in which we become “sons in the Son”?

 

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 GN 1:20—2:4A

God said,
“Let the water teem with an abundance of living creatures,
and on the earth let birds fly beneath the dome of the sky.”
And so it happened:
God created the great sea monsters
and all kinds of swimming creatures with which the water teems,
and all kinds of winged birds.
God saw how good it was, and God blessed them, saying,
“Be fertile, multiply, and fill the water of the seas;
and let the birds multiply on the earth.”
Evening came, and morning followed–the fifth day.
Then God said,
“Let the earth bring forth all kinds of living creatures:
cattle, creeping things, and wild animals of all kinds.”
And so it happened:
God made all kinds of wild animals, all kinds of cattle,
and all kinds of creeping things of the earth.
God saw how good it was.
Then God said:
“Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.
Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea,
the birds of the air, and the cattle,
and over all the wild animals
and all the creatures that crawl on the ground.”
God created man in his image;
in the divine image he created him;
male and female he created them.God blessed them, saying:
“Be fertile and multiply;
fill the earth and subdue it.
Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air,
and all the living things that move on the earth.”
God also said:
“See, I give you every seed-bearing plant all over the earth
and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit on it to be your food;
and to all the animals of the land, all the birds of the air,
and all the living creatures that crawl on the ground,
I give all the green plants for food.”
And so it happened.
God looked at everything he had made, and he found it very good.
Evening came, and morning followed–the sixth day.Thus the heavens and the earth and all their array were completed.
Since on the seventh day God was finished with the work he had been doing,
he rested on the seventh day from all the work he had undertaken.
So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy,
because on it he rested from all the work he had done in creation.

Such is the story of the heavens and the earth at their creation.

Responsorial Psalm PS 8:4-5, 6-7, 8-9

R. (2ab) O Lord, our God, how wonderful your name in all the earth!
When I behold your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars which you set in place—
What is man that you should be mindful of him,
or the son of man that you should care for him?
R. O Lord, our God, how wonderful your name in all the earth!
You have made him little less than the angels,
and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him rule over the works of your hands,
putting all things under his feet.
R. O Lord, our God, how wonderful your name in all the earth!
All sheep and oxen,
yes, and the beasts of the field,
The birds of the air, the fishes of the sea,
and whatever swims the paths of the seas.
R. O Lord, our God, how wonderful your name in all the earth!

Alleluia PS 119:36, 29B

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Incline my heart, O God, to your decrees;
and favored me with your law.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MK 7:1-13

When the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem
gathered around Jesus,
they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals
with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands.
(For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews,
do not eat without carefully washing their hands,
keeping the tradition of the elders.
And on coming from the marketplace
they do not eat without purifying themselves.
And there are many other things that they have traditionally observed,
the purification of cups and jugs and kettles and beds.)
So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him,
“Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders
but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?”
He responded,
“Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites,
as it is written:This people honors me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines human precepts.
You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.”
He went on to say,
“How well you have set aside the commandment of God
in order to uphold your tradition!
For Moses said,
Honor your father and your mother,
and Whoever curses father or mother shall die.
Yet you say,
‘If someone says to father or mother,
“Any support you might have had from me is qorban”’
(meaning, dedicated to God),
you allow him to do nothing more for his father or mother.
You nullify the word of God
in favor of your tradition that you have handed on.
And you do many such things.”