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Doctrines & Morals


BASED ON THE READINGS of today, it is all about the true image of God. In a Holy Book filled with many contrasting imageries of God, we need to pause and go within us to encounter the God of life. It is here that we see an image of God who speaks to us and forms also our own self-image since we are created in his image.

Here, we steer a middle course between a metaphysical philosophical God and an experiential anthropomorphic God.   When the virtue lies in the middle we then remember that God is a mystery and most of our depictions of him are metaphorical. With this point of departure, we then try to understand this God so “mean” as to lay out rules and regulations for his children. Is he the same loving Father, Redeemer and one rich in mercy and slow to anger? How can we understand Jesus, the Divine Mercy Incarnate entering the temple and chasing people away with whips? Is he a violent God? Is he not the same Jesus that would invite sinners and tax collectors to dine with him, forgive the woman caught in adultery, feed the hungry, and even weep at his friend´s death? If I should draw my own self image from this God, who am I? Police father? A violent and insensitive minister of the Word of God? Amidst all these contrasting images, who am I as one created in the image and likeness of God? The answer to this question could be found in the pages of the scriptures or in a philosophical theological debate. But a healthier answer is found within me, in the sanctuary of my soul where all these contrasting images are conflicting for dominance. In the tranquility of my soul, I will be able to put these under control, and out of the seemingly incoherent mosaic, a deeper harmony arises.

At any given instance, motif remains the best way to explain any fragmentary paradox as regards the image of God. The first question to ask is, why is God described in this way? What is the writer trying to achieve by employing such metaphor or image? This will also be put in the basic constant of God as a loving Father. Now, let us look at the first reading. We encounter Moses handing the Ten Commandments to the Israelites. There are other extrabiblical parallels to the Ten Commandments such as the Laws of Hammurabi. However, the introduction and formulation of the Decalogue distinguishes itself as a law handed over by a personal loving and caring God to his people. The introduction says it all, “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt…” Also other contemporary extrabiblical laws are harsh in formulations, with punishments attached to each commandment. For example, the Code of Hammurabi begins thus, “If any one ensnare another, putting a ban upon him, but he cannot prove it, then he that ensnared him shall be put to death.” This death suffix appears more than 36 times in this code. Unlike the Ten Commandments, it has no personal introduction. It is a law given by an impersonal tyrant. The form and tone of the Commandments distinguish it from the other parallels and make it more of an instruction from a loving Father to his children. Even though, the relationship in a family is not based on Law but on love, there are values and ethos governing a healthy family. That is what God is proving to us here. Hence, Jesus Christ would say that the summary of the laws and prophets is love of God and of neighbour as oneself. In the same vein, motif helps us to understand what Jesus Christ did while purifying the temple. He was not bent on dealing ruthlessly with the merchants at the temple precincts. Instead he was trying to communicate something. The house of God should be a place of encounter with God and not of socio-economic exploits. He has wanted to show us that he is the true temple and hence in him is the true encounter with God. With these, he came into conflict with the authorities who were the proponents of absolute legalism in Jewish religion. Jesus teaches that it is not really through those religious rigours that ended up putting the less privileged at the margin but through pure hearts can one encounter God. It was this conflict that led to his death, which brought about a truest proof that he is the true temple. His crucifixion was a scandal to the Jews and a folly to the Greeks. This is because they did not understand the motif of his death and were locked up in fragmentary paradoxes. But in the logic of the cross is the true meaning of Christianity, a life poured out for others. Here is the locus of self-transformation as true followers of Jesus Christ.

Funny enough, there are still Jews and Greeks in our Church today, those rigidly holding to laws and traditions and those trying to rationalize over everything without room for God. Such attitudes that neglect other fragments could be dangerous in our understanding of who God is. The bible presents us not really an essential picture of God who is a mystery but experiential dots of the manifestation of his divine love in history. Since Karl Rahner turned the table of theological discussion thereby seeing in man a locus theologicus, many have argued that theology without man could be atheistic just as it is without God. I will not delve into the rudiments of this argument. However, I want to point out here that an image of God we have also has great consequences on our own self image since we are created in the image of God. Being created in the image and likeness of God who is love, I should always see myself as loving, loved and lovable. Life experiences, people assessments of me as well as my personal evaluation have burdened me with contrasting paradoxes. Most of the time, the images are harsh, critical and condemning. This can lead to crises and depression. Sometimes, we focus more on our failures, negative contrasting experiences, love coma, loss of opportunities and costly mistakes. Because we are glued to all these negatives, we find it difficult to see the positive aspect of life. We easily forget the stuff we are made of. We are blinded at our divine origin. What people say about us as well as what events suggest weigh us down to the point of crushing us. We lack the power of self-affirmation. There is one way to heal ourselves of this sickness and that is speaking the truth to ourselves that we are loved, loving and loveable. When others ‘assessments  and events try to crush us with condemnations and negative thinking, bear in mind that you are created in the image of God who is a loving Father. That is the basic constant in all human experiences. It is normal to make mistakes in life. It is human to sin. Pain and loss is an integral part of the creative order. However, they do not define us. They are accidents clinging to the essence. Like in the cross of Christ Jesus, it is left for us to sit ourselves down and speak words of life and hope unto our souls. It is time to tell ourselves, that we must submit our lives for transformation. Do not allow sin to speak unto you for the devil the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down. Do not allow failure to speak to you for you are destined to be successful. Do not allow loss to speak unto you for your loss is your gain. Tell sin that the Lamb has washed your sins away and that there is  a big difference between the sin and the sinner. Tell failure that your God is a big God who offers us success as a gift. Tell loss that in God is all in all. Speak to yourself that you are wonderfully made. Do not allow any frightening image of God scare you from drawing closer to him. The basic essence of God is love and you are created out of and for this love. Be at war with negative images of God and negative voices within you. Try to harmonize the chaos from the contrasting images of God and its effects on your personal crisis, then allow the strength of harmony to heal you of any psychic trauma. No matter what, God remains a loving Father and accepts me the way I am. Let us speak the truth to ourselves that we might be healed of pessimism and be drawn closer to the mystery of love. As motif remains the best way to explain each fragmentary imagery or metaphor of God, God´s will remain the yardstick for explaining my mistake, failure and loss. His will is perfect and borne out of perfect love. Everything works unto good for those who believe. Are you ready to speak to yourself?



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