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Feast of the Lord and Giver of Life

Genesis 1:26-28a

Psalm 10

Romans 8:35-39

Matthew 18:1-5

Today it the Feast of the Lord and Giver of Life, and we proclaim that all life is sacred. All comes from our God who is the Giver of all good things and the Source of life.

In the book of Genesis, it proclaims that all human beings have been made in the image and likeness of God. In Latin, it is call “Imago Dei” the image of God imprinted in us. All of human life is sacred. Every person is an image of God and bears the image and likeness of God. I can think of four levels of existence. First, the inanimate objects that just exist with no life. Second, the flora, like the trees and the plants which have life in them, but no awareness or consciousness. Third, the fauna, the animals, which just don’t exist for they have life and senses giving them consciousness and awareness of things around them. Fourth is man, who don’t just exist, but have life given by God, and are conscious and aware that there is God and a Creator from whom this life came.

We are privileged because we were created by God. God spoke all other things into existence. He said, “Let there be ….” and they existed. With man, He knelt, He got His hands dirty with the dirt of the earth and formed him. There was a special effort, a conversation in the community of the Godhead saying, “Let Us…and this will be made in Our image.” Aren’t we blessed, privileged and honored that we have been created human? This is how precious we are. There was involvement among the Godhead and only man was created in God’s image and received His breath of life.

Creation declares the glory, the power, and the majesty, and the mystery of God to degree, but to communicate, to manifest, as Epiphany reminds us, the more important attributes of God which are love, mercy, and justice requires a unique creature to communicate these. It requires a unique image-bearing creature which contains God, and only man is uniquely suited to manifest the divine nature of God. The Greek word “eikon” from which we got the word icon means a copy in which the original is contained, and this is man.

The philosophers and the scientists fall short in defining man and they can’t define him apart from God. Man has the breath of God in Him. If we define man apart from God, he is not man anymore. Clones are not humans because they don’t have the life of God in them. We have an awareness of God and we are wired for worship. We have an empty space in us and a void that only God can fill. Man can never create man. It is only God who can breathe the breath of life in man.

Each man is an image-bearer of God no matter how tarnished or how marred. The image of God is indelibly and permanently printed in man. God is not disgusted with us no matter our weakness. We are the apple of God’s eyes. He sees underneath. Michelangelo, the Italian sculptor and painter, said that when he sees a driftwood, he doesn’t see a waste object but a work of art because underneath all the roughness is a work of art. He only needs to chip away the impurities and what covers the precious.

We should be removing things in our lives that hinder us from manifesting the image of God. We should have the attitude of Michelangelo towards stones and blocks of wood towards one another. We should see each other as the image of God beyond the impurities, the weakness, and the imperfections. Sadly, what we see and magnify are the weaknesses and imperfections rather than the image of God.

In Ephesians, St. Paul said, “Whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is honorable, whatever is of good repute, if there is any virtue or excellence, dwell on these things.” If the image of God is in each of us, is there any excellence in that? Is there any virtue in that? It is not just ‘any’ but a lot. Dwell on these things. Focus on these things. Do not look at the sin. I am not saying that we don’t address it, but sometimes, we are more ready to see and to believe the scandals, the things that are controversial in man. Each is a bearer of God’s image no matter how tarnished it is.

All sin boils down to one sin: idolatry, which is worshipping God the wrong way or worshipping the wrong god. It results in bearing the wrong image. Sin makes the creatures of God bear the wrong image, thus hypocrisy is acting contrary to the divine nature of God in us. What is the divine nature of God in us? It is love, kindness, goodness, peace, mercy, forgiveness. If we manifest anger, animosity, lack of peace and unforgiveness, we are being hypocrites because this is not the image of God in us. What we worship, we become. If we have a wrong image of God, it is what we project. If we worship a god who is angry or violent and unforgiving, we justify our becoming angry, violent and unforgiving. See the image of God in all that we encounter daily for all bear the image of God.

C.S. Lewis said, “Next to the Blessed Sacrament (the consecrated bread which is Jesus Himself) our neighbor is the holiest object presented to our senses.” How do we treat our brothers and sisters? How do we look at them? As trash? As less than human beings? Not worthy of our time and attention? All contain the image of God. Christ is in all of us. We should not be exclusive. We should not think that we are only the children of God. Each person is a child of God no matter their belief. Even if they are not Christians, they are a child of God. Each person born bears the image of God. We are all children of God, even those who are “not yet” Christians.

In Acts 17, St. Paul quoted a Greek poet when he said, “We are all His offspring.” He told this to pagan philosophers. Each is child of God. Some may be estranged, lost, astray or weak but they are still God’s child. I would say that they are family who haven’t found their way home, and so we are not to readily exclude them. Refusing to acknowledge anyone as brother or sister is dangerous. In the Old Testament, it was Cain’s downfall. He refused to acknowledge Abel as his brother so he killed him.

In 1 John 3, John said, “Love, don’t be as Cain who killed his brother.” We love our brother; we don’t kill them. Who is our brother? It is the person we don’t kill. Then, should we ask, “Who then should we kill?” 1 John 4:20 says, “He who does not love his brother whom he sees cannot say that he loves God whom he does not see.” We can say, “Even if I don’t see God, I feel Him. I know Him. I love Him.” When we see our brother, it is easy to hate because we see the weakness. John is saying, “If you see your brother who is the image and likeness of God, and you don’t love him and you hate him, you cannot truly say that you love God.” Remember, our brother is the image of God and to a degree, our brother is God’s epiphany, a manifestation of who God is.

We don’t love God any more than our brother. We really only love God as much as the person we love the least. If we believe our life is sacred, we shouldn’t hate, exclude or marginalize. We shouldn’t be racist or categorize people. The worst person in your mind bears the image of God.

I heard it taught that it was a commandment in the Bible to be angry. The context in Ephesians 4 is, “Be angry, but don’t let the sun go down in your anger.” It is not a commandment because in other portions of Scriptures, St. Paul says in Ephesians 4:29, “Say only what helps and edifies. Get rid of all bitterness, anger, rage, slander, malice; instead be kind, gentle, forgiving as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ did to you; otherwise, we grieve the Holy Spirit.” The Psalmist David says, “Cease from anger and forsake wrath,” because it only leads to evil doing.

If we see the image of God in our brother, there will be no competition not like what the apostles were doing in the gospel today asking who is the greatest in the kingdom of God. We are to be like children. We would humble ourselves, receive each other and not cause anyone to stumble. We would be content being the youngest, the least, and the last.

I posted this today in Facebook: “Today, we in the ICCEC celebrate the Feast of the Lord and Giver of Life (formerly Sanctity of Life Sunday). We proclaim that all life is sacred. Man was made by God in His image and likeness. He has His breath of life in him. In Him he lives, moves and has his being. He was created in Christ Jesus for good works, for flourishing, for life. Yes, he fell but sin is not what’s original. What’s original about man is that he was created good. It makes more sense to hope for life than to assume eternal destruction is his default destiny. All life is sacred. All. God knows that only too well and that’s why Jesus was born, that man no more may die. May we have the same respect and value for all human life.”

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