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Imago Dei

  • April 1, 2022 (readings)
  • Friday of the Fourth Week of Lent
  • Carey Boyzuck
  • John 7:1-2, 10, 25-30

    Jesus moved about within Galilee; he did not wish to travel in Judea, because the Jews were trying to kill him. But the Jewish feast of Tabernacles was near. But when his brothers had gone up to the feast, he himself also went up, not openly but as it were in secret. Some of the inhabitants of Jerusalem said, “Is he not the one they are trying to kill? And look, he is speaking openly and they say nothing to him. Could the authorities have realized that he is the Christ? But we know where he is from. When the Christ comes, no one will know where he is from.” So Jesus cried out in the temple area as he was teaching and said, “You know me and also know where I am from. Yet I did not come on my own, but the one who sent me, whom you do not know, is true. I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me.” So they tried to arrest him, but no one laid a hand upon him, because his hour had not yet come.

    Opening Prayer: Jesus, teach me how to pray (Luke 11:1). Holy Spirit, come and help me understand your word. Father, help me to know you through your Son.

    Encountering Christ:

    1. New Exodus: In this Gospel passage, Jesus was teaching in the Temple around the time of the feast of Tabernacles, which is a week of holy days observed by the Jewish people each autumn. They celebrated the harvest, made sacrifices to God, and commemorated their freedom from Egypt. They dwelled in tents or booths to recall when their ancestors wandered in the desert, waiting for deliverance into the Promised Land of Canaan. This ritual of Tabernacles, also called Sukkot, was one way the Jewish people entered into and experienced the historical event of the Exodus. Jesus would soon accomplish a new Exodus, delivering his people into the Promised Land of Heaven by his death and Resurrection. The Transfiguration introduced the idea of Jesus’ new Exodus: “And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure [Greek, exodus] which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem” (Luke 9:30-31). Peter was then moved by the Holy Spirit to proclaim a new feast of Tabernacles by building booths for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah (Luke 9:33). This was Jesus’ mission, the reason the Father sent him to Earth, to accomplish a new and greater Exodus: the salvation of the world.

    2. One Like Us, Yet Divine: The Jewish people did not recognize Jesus’ Exodus mission, nor his divine origin. But they certainly thought they had him figured out. They “knew” who he was and where he came from. To them, he was just a poor boy from Nazareth: “‘Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?’ And they took offense at him” (Mark 6:3). These people could not accept Jesus as the Messiah because he was too much like them. In his divine love, Jesus took on flesh and became man in order to be like us in all things but sin: “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery…Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:14-17). The Jewish people could not believe this was actually the divine Messiah, the anointed King of Israel. He was simply too common; he was too much like themselves. They could not comprehend how Jesus could be both God and man. St. Cyril of Alexandria wrote on the duality of Christ: “...the Word, by having united to himself hypostatically flesh animated by a rational soul, inexplicably and incomprehensibly became man.” With this statement, Cyril defined the hypostatic union: Jesus is fully man and yet fully God in a singular existence.

    3. The imprint of the Father: The people could not understand Jesus because their minds were closed to the ways that God can work. They had God in a little box in their minds: “God works this way. He would never act in another way.” They did not recognize Jesus because he was different from what they expected. In short, they did not truly know the Father, so they could not recognize his Son. “Jesus said to [Thomas], ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.’ Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father”? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?’” (John 14:6-10). When we come to know, love, and follow Jesus, he reveals the Father to us. Jesus is the “exact imprint” of the Father’s nature (Hebrews 1:3), the true imago Dei. The all-powerful, everlasting God became weak and mortal in order to introduce us to himself, that we might have life in him: “For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself” (John 5:26).

    Conversing with Christ: Jesus, I am in awe of your glory and your incomprehensible love. You work in ways I cannot begin to understand. You gave up your glory in Heaven to become human like me to save me. You became flesh as a little child so I could imagine holding you in my arms. You come to me in the humble appearance of bread and wine each day so that I can hold you in my hands and in my body in order to become like you. Help me gratefully respond by being humble and small for others, as you are for me. Help me recognize the imago Dei, the image of God in myself through you.

    Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will pray a Glory Be slowly, giving due glory to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit both separately and together in the mystery of the Holy Trinity.

    For Further Reflection: Watch this video from the World Meeting of Families in 2015: Bishop Robert Barron: Living as the Image of God: Created for Joy and Love. (Bishop Barron’s talk starts around 11 minutes into the video.)


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