The Image of God in us: do we perfect it, or distort it?


Homily for Feb. 8, Tuesday of the V week of OT, year I Download MP3 audio file

“God looked at everything He had made, and He found it very good.” With these words, the book of Genesis concludes the account of how God created the world, and specifically how He created human beings. After all of the other things He creates, God sees that it is good, but man and woman are very good, because we are made in God’s image and likeness.

That doesn’t mean that God picked up a mirror, looked at himself, and said, “Adam will look just like me, but with dark hair instead of white hair, and Eve will look just like me too, except for the beard.” That would not work, because God didn’t even have a body at all until God the Son became man. Rather, the likeness of God we bear resides in our capacity for love, knowledge, freedom, and creativity. It is a spiritual likeness, not a physical one.

But let’s think for a moment about physical appearance. Through the laws of biology and the influence of our environment, God has endowed each of us with a particular image. We resemble our parents in varying degrees, and are more or less handsome or beautiful. We necessarily add to what we get when we are born, by wearing clothes, grooming our hair, and so forth. What we add can enhance or distort that God-given appearance. Some people start with a normal appearance and end up doing so much to it that they are unrecognizable and even grotesque.

The same thing can happen with our spiritual likeness to God. Just by being human we are made in God’s image, and baptism and living our faith elevate and enhance that likeness. But we can become unsatisfied with what God gives us and try to find ways to live more in agreement with our preferences and sinful tendencies. This is what Jesus so forcefully condemns about the Pharisees in today’s Gospel reading: they were uncomfortable with the demands of God’s law, so they built up their own rules and loopholes around it and tried to pass the resulting mess as being faithful to God.

I invite us each of us today to examine our own lives, and ask ourselves: are we cultivating the image and likeness of God in ourselves by following the example and teaching of Christ? To what extent have we made our own interpretations and rules that make our lives easier, but make us less like our Creator? God created us very good, and through His work of redemption He has given us the possibility to be even better. May He help us to continually perfect that image until the day when we join Him at the end of our toils in His heavenly rest.

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About Matthew Green

I am a translator, origami artist/teacher, and photographer, a blogger, former philosophy professor, and I love to sing. You can see my photos on Flickr and buy prints of some of them on Fine Art America. You can find me on Instagram, Twitter (@mehjg), and in various and sundry other social media sites on the web.
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