In The Image of God
5th Sunday in Lent – Joe Frankenfield
Jesus presented a new image of God. The image he offered was not discontinuous with that given by his Jewish Tradition but he enhanced that image profoundly. His Tradition offered a God violent with his enemies; Jesus offered instead a God of love and infinite forgiveness. His Tradition spoke of a God primarily concerned with one group of people, Jesus offered a God concerned for the welfare of all.
Were there elements of an all-forgiving, universally solicitous God present in the Judaism Jesus inherited? Definitely. But Jesus made them God’s identifying quality.
God didn’t change when Jesus arrived. What changed were the mutually enabling visions of how the world works and how the Creator of the world works. The two are inseparable.
On the one hand, a generous, self-giving Creator and a parsimonious, self-centered world make no sense. A forgiving, loyal God creating a world to run on harsh judgments and qualified love is irrational.
On the other hand, when we find within ourselves a deep desire to love and care for one another even to the extent that parents give their lives for their children and lovers for their beloved, we can’t imagine God doing less for his creatures. When living teaches us that we can’t survive, let alone thrive, without forgiving one another, how can we picture God not basing his relationship with us on forgiveness?
Thinking that we can successfully act in a way that differs from how our Creator acts is untenable and self-destructive.
Hearing Jesus end the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5) by encouraging his followers to “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” may make us want to roll our eyes and mutter, “right.” But his words make complete sense regardless of how difficult, even unlikely they may seem for us.
The images we cultivate of God and ourselves mature with living. They’re precious. We form them in common with others but we can’t delegate them to others. They define us. They define our possibility.