Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!
Pentecost—11 May AD 2008
The Image and Likeness of God

[Ordinary of the Mass]
[English Mass Text]
[Latin Mass Text]

    On the secular calendar, today is Mothers’ Day.  Congratulations to all of you who are mothers and grandmothers;  congratulations and hearty thanks to all who have given generously of themselves in raising the children who are our future.  Be sure to visit Mom if she is still among us—and say a prayer for her in either event.

    On the liturgical calendar, today is Pentecost, the fiftieth day after Easter, the day on which the Holy Ghost descended upon the Apostles and the Blessed Virgin in the Upper Room of the Last Supper.  While all of the Baptized are temples of the Holy Ghost, in the Sacrament of Confirmation we receive the Holy Ghost in the same special way as He was received in the Upper Room on Pentecost.  For the past ten days the members of the early Church had been in hiding—but with this infusion of grace, the Apostles ventured out to address the people of Jerusalem. 

    Pentecost was one of the three great festivals of the Jews—a time when Jerusalem would host worshippers from the many nations of the Diaspora—many of whom did not speak the local Aramaic language.  The Apostles were given this miraculous gift of “tongues,” the ability to speak in their own language while being understood by people who spoke other languages.  Perhaps even more important, they were given the courage to bear public witness to Jesus Christ, who had been crucified at the demand of pretty much the same crowd less than two months earlier.  They even went so far as to describe those responsible for the crucifixion as “wicked men.  With this miracle of “tongues, and the courage of conviction the Apostles were able to bring about three thousand new souls to the Catholic Faith.[1]

    A few weeks ago, I mentioned that the Holy Ghost was sent to us to be another “advocate”—someone to help us speak the truth of the Catholic Faith to the powerful and influential people of this world who would deny the Faith of Jesus Christ.[2]  But we might yet ask, just who is this Advocate?  where did He come from?  how did He come to be?

    For a number of reasons, our answer to these questions will be incomplete.  We are capable of knowing that there is a God, and even knowing something about Him through the use of our natural reasoning abilities.  But the Trinity and Its persons are a mystery—being beyond our natural reason, we can know Them only to the degree that They have made themselves known to us by revelation.  The Holy Ghost appeared at our Lord’s Baptism in the form of a dove, and our Lord spoke of Him at the Last Supper—we have heard His words over the past few weeks.  Elsewhere, our Lord spoke of His unity with the Father, and the Father identified Jesus as His beloved Son, both at the time of His Baptism and at His transfiguration.

    We know a little bit more from the words of the Angel Gabriel to Mary:  “Behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a Son, and thou shalt call His name Jesus. He shall be great and shall be called the Son of the most High ...The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the most High shall overshadow thee. And, therefore, the Holy that shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.”[3]

    We have such revelation, but it tells us little or nothing about the origins or relations between the three divine Persons.  For this we have only the enlightened speculation of the philosophers.  Saint Augustine has advanced the best, in my opinion, of the speculations.  In brief, he says that before all creation, before the beginning of time, the Father knew Himself with an intellect so powerful that His idea of Himself was real and existent—His idea, called the “Word,” the “Word of God,” the “Logos” is the Person of the Son.  In a similar manner, the Father and the Son loved one another with a love so powerful that it gave rise to the Person of the Holy Ghost.  It is this personified love of God who dwells in the souls of those in the state of Grace.

    It is noteworthy that this pattern of knowing and loving—of intellect and will —permeates so much of God’s creation.  The Designer and Creator of the universe has impressed an image of His most noteworthy attributes on the works of His creation.  His purely spiritual creatures, the angels, are capable of intellect and will.  They know God, they know His goodness, they are drawn to Him by will, they decide whether or not they will serve Him.  Those deciding to love God are the angels;  those aspiring to be, themselves, gods are the devils.

    The pattern of knowing and loving—of intellect and will appears in the higher levels of the animal kingdom.  Some of this we attribute to instinct, or learned patterns of behavior and reward.  But many animals do know their masters, and their mates, and their children.  Some display what seems to be genuine remorse at the death or loss of these loved ones.  And do not try to stand between the bear cub and his mother!

    At the human level it is much more clear.  Knowing and loving, intellect and will, are part of every human act.  That is indeed the basis for most of the evaluations that people make about one another—from the criminal court, to the job market, and on to the choice of friends—what did (or does) a person know, and what choices did (or does) he make of that knowledge.  Did he know the gun was loaded and choose to pull the trigger anyway?  Did he know the actual risks and choose to act heroically?

    Man can know and love himself, and indeed should do so, as long as his self love is within reasonable limits.  Like the angels, men and women have to make reasoned, free will choices between good and evil.  But just as there is an interaction of the Persons of the Trinity, the image of our Creator seems most clearly marked on our humanity when we consider the interaction of persons.  How do two or more people, each with his own intellect and will, interact with each other?  We don’t need to list examples to know that sometimes human interaction is good and sometimes it is bad.

    There is one very special human interaction—one very much marked by the Creator with His divine image—one essential to mention on Mothers’ Day.  On the sixth day of creation, God said:  “Let us make man to our image and likeness: and let him have dominion over the ... whole earth ... And God created man to his own image: to the image of God he created him: male and female he created them.  And God blessed them, saying: Increase and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it....[4]

    There is no human activity or institution in which careful exercise of the intellect and will, the knowing and loving, are more important than in the holy union of matrimony.  Clearly there are rational choices to be made in selecting a lifetime mate, but it would be the height of foolishness to think that a good marriage could be formed without love.

    But even more striking is the reality that in marriage the image of the Trinity is more sharply focused than in any other human relationship.  Other relationships depend on human intellect and will, but only in the union of a man and woman do these give rise to yet another person!  As the knowledge and love of the Father and the Son give rise to the Holy Ghost, the “image and likeness” of God are manifested in the woman who brings forth her husband’s children to “fill the earth and subdue it.”

    Here again there are choices which can be made—for good or for evil.  Some couples will not choose the good of bringing forth the young lives which God offers them.  Some will refuse the permanent unity of “two in one flesh” and sunder what “God has joined together.”[5]  But others will choose life and choose to live in the “image and likeness” of God.  God bless all of you who have chosen to have children and to raise them according to God’s will—particularly those who are mothers, for we know that mothers do far more of the “heavy lifting” in this than the fathers.  God bless, as well, all those who are not mothers or fathers, but have stepped in to lend a hand when mothers and fathers were unable.

    Finally, let us invoke the prayers of the Blessed Virgin Mary on all those who raise the children of the next generation.  Mary enjoys the unique position of being the spouse of the Holy Ghost and the Mother of God the Son.  Let us pray that she will help us to live in the image and likeness of God all the days of our lives.  May she intercede for all of our mothers, living and dead, on this their special day!


[1]   Cf. Acts of the Apostles ii.

[2]   Fourth Sunday after Easter AD 2008

[3]   Cf. Luke i: 26-38.

[4]   Genesis i: 26-28.

[5]   Genesis ii: 24,  Matthew xix: 5-6.


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