Saturday, May 18, 2013

In my own image (Part 1/2)

                     "The Lord God formed man out of the ground and blew into his nostrils 
                      the breath of life, and so man became a living being." [Genesis 2:7] 

In his reflection on this passage Pope Benedict XVI states that we are humbled and consoled by it. We are humbled in knowing that we are earthly made from earth, and that we are not God and did not make ourselves, nor do we rule the universe. We are consoled that we are made from God's good earth and not from evil or fallen spirits like some want to make us believe. Most importantly, he adds that no matter how culture and history differentiate us, placing us in various categorical levels, we are fundamentally the same kind of human being, "one humanity in the many human beings."[1]

                     "Then God said: 'let us make man in our image, after our likeness...' 
                   God created man in his own image; in the divine image he created him; 
                   male and female he created them." [Genesis 1:26-27] 

Pope Benedict XVI states that "in the human being heaven and earth touch one another." The divine enters humanity with God's breath into the nostrils of the earthly being. "Each human being, however wretched or exalted he or she may be, however sick or suffering, however good-for-nothing or important, whether born or unborn, whether incurable ill or radiant with health __ each one bears God's breath in himself or herself, each one is God's image. This is the deepest reason for the inviolability of human dignity..." [1]

Reflecting on being made in the image of God, Pope Benedict XVI adds that an image points to something beyond itself and in the case of humanity it points to God. Like God human beings are relational, made to think and love, oriented toward giving themselves to the other. [1] 

Although early theologians gave different meanings to the words, "image" and "likeness", theologians today do not differentiate between the two. Sometimes the two words are used side by side to define each other (See Genesis 1:26-27), and sometimes one or the other is used such as:  

                          "When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God; 
                         he created them male and female. When they were created, 
                           he blessed them and named them 'man'." [Genesis 5:1-2]

                        "If anyone sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; 
                          For in the image of God has man been made." [Genesis 9:6]

We must always remember that the dignity of a human being was not taken away after the Fall of Adam and Eve. Way later and after the great flood, God addresses Noah in Genesis 9:6, still referring to man as a being in his own image. Therefore even at his worst, man remains in the image and likeness of God, deserving to be treated with dignity.

[1] Pope Benedict XVI, 'In the Beginning...' A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall, Michigan, Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1986. 

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