Images of God

Wed, 11/01/2006

By Miceal O'Neill, O.Carm. We are living at a great time in terms of our consideration of contemplation as the heart of the Christian vocation. By contemplation we mean the journey and the encounter with God that transforms us into ever fuller images and likenesses of God, capable of seeing with the eyes of God and loving with the heart of God. It is the contemplation of a God who reveals God's own identity, with God's way of being, of speaking, and of acting (Psalm 115). In our journey therefore we are taking on more and more the way of God. We are coming to greater union with God and with his way. Those who know God in this way will do justice and live in justice. They will be people who will be incapable of living with injustice. They will abhor the kind of injustice that diminishes the human person, or fails to cultivate the human person as created in the image and likeness of God. While we speak a lot about God, as if we knew God as he really is, we have to recognize that we have no complete image of God, who is beyond all images. Our limited images of God have a great influence on how we practice our faith, how we relate to others, how we approach life. Unquestioned images are capable of becoming idols. In order to know God we have to be open to God's new ways of revealing God's self to us. In the Scriptures we can see three very strong images of God. The Lord hears the cry of the poor: The heart of God was moved by the cry of the poor. This God, knows the sufferings of his people, has heard their cry and is coming down to save them (Exodus 3). Before acting in the name of justice and love it is important to be like this God, to listen first to the cry of the people, to know their suffering and to have a firm desire for the liberation of the poor. When we listen and respond to the cry of the poor, in an authentic manner, we go through a process of conversion. We become more like God. Where the cry goes unheard, it is harder for people to believe. Jesus – the perfect image of God: The God who comes down to save his people from their oppression, sends his Son, the Incarnate Word, to be the full revelation of who God is. All we could ever want to know of God can be found in Jesus. He who sees me sees the Father (John 12:45). He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all Creation (Colossians 1:15). When we think of our life and how we would like to live it, we have to think of Jesus. When we want to understand and deepen our commitment, we have to think of Jesus' commitment. On very many occasions Jesus spoke of why he had come: I came…to do the will of the one who sent me (John 12:44-50)…that you might have life (John 10)…to serve and not be served (Matthew 20:28). Jesus performed miracles which reveal how he understood his mission: His miracles were an expression of the presence of the Kingdom of God, an expression of his ability to act out of sheer love, and a sign so that people might believe. Jesus was also an expression of God's option for the poor, by being born as one of them and living among them. The Reign of God is at hand (Mark 1:15): Jesus made the Reign of God the center of his preaching. This Reign is now a reality, but in such a way that it needs to grow among us. Because of Jesus, even now, the blind begin to see, the lame begin to walk, the deaf begin to hear and the Good News is being preached to the poor. The Reign of God embraces the whole of creation, as we know it. It is a reign of justice and truth, holiness and peace, grace, unity and love. What we know of the Reign of God allows us to understand what God's will is, and the kind of God in whom we believe. By what we know of the Reign of God we can discern what is good, acceptable and perfect. Belief in the Reign of God drives people on to be its servants and to build up the Reign of God, through the love that has been poured into our hearts (Romans 5:5). Our knowledge of the Reign of God is more than mere information. It implies mission and demands participation and commitment. It promises development, growth, and transformation for the individual and for the community.