Bear the image of the Heavenly One!
Homily preached February 20, 2022
by Monsignor Michael Deering
After baptizing a one-month-old baby after an 11:00 Sunday Mass ...
the new Father invited me to join them for lunch at the Grandparent’s home.
There I got to talk with the Father, his two brothers and their parents. In all of this,
I could really see how these three grown men all bore the image of their parents,
not just in appearance, but in mannerisms and personality and spirit!
That’s the way it works, we human beings bear a resemblance to our biological parents. And we often acknowledge this with expressions like:
“You’ve got your Father’s handsome head of hair”, or
“You have your Mother’s beautiful blue eyes.”
We also recognize similar traits that are handed on when we say things like:
“You swing a golf club just like your Dad.” or,
“Your Mom must be proud with the way you keep such a beautiful home.”
Bearing the good looks and the good talents and the good attributes of our parents can be a real blessing for us.
But there’s also the chance that we might bear some of the negative aspects of our parents. We might have their tendency for alcoholism or obesity or
disorganization or laziness.
We are the product of our biological parents and so we bear the image of them.
Another image that we bear goes all the way back to our First Parents, Adam & Eve.
They offended God by committing the Original Sin and so,
in being born into this world as their descendants,
we too bear the mark of their sin.
All Human Beings are born with the stain of Original Sin on their souls.
St. Paul refers to this in our Second Reading today.
He says, “As was the earthly one (Adam) so also are the earthly (his descendants).”
Paul is saying that in a natural way, we are like our forefather, Adam, who sinned against God. The effect of this is that we are born in a weakened state, called concupiscence, which is the tendency or inclination to sin.
This is a pretty dismal image for us to have to bear.
But thankfully, St. Paul goes on to give us some Good News.
He says, “As is the heavenly one, (Jesus) so also are the heavenly (His followers).”
Here Paul is pointing out that just as we bear some resemblance to the first man, Adam, we can also bear some resemblance to the New Man, Jesus Christ, if we enter into His family by undergoing the waters of Baptism. For in Baptism the stain of Adam’s Original Sin is washed from our souls and we are clothed in Jesus Christ.
So, Paul closes this brief passage with the encouraging message:
“Just as we have borne the image of the earthy one (Adam),
we shall also bear the image of the heavenly one (Jesus).”
And what is the image of “the Heavenly One” ... Jesus?
How would you describe Jesus?
Well, of all the wonderful images we have of Jesus, 2 are at the top of the list.
Jesus is Divine Love ... and ... Jesus is Divine Mercy.
Jesus is Love in the flesh ... and ... Jesus is Mercy without end.
These are the images that He bears all throughout the Gospels.
And His desire for us ... His adopted Brothers and Sisters ...
is that we bear these images too ... the image of love and the image of mercy.
Yes, Jesus wants us to bear ... His Heavenly Image!
Not the image of Adam. Not just the image of our Parents. His image!
In our Gospel today, Jesus tells His Disciples, “Love your enemies … be merciful”
Jesus is love and mercy; and He wants us, His followers,
who are made in His Image and Likeness ...
to bear His image of love and mercy too!
Is that the image that you bare?
Do others see you as being a person of love and mercy?
We sure love to receive love. And we sure love to receive mercy.
But do we offer ... love and mercy ... to others?
If we’re to bear the image of Jesus ...
then, we need to offer love and mercy ... to others ...
actually, we need to offer love and mercy ... to everyone.
And everyone includes ... our enemies!
Yes, this is the challenging instruction that Jesus gives us today.
In Luke’s Gospel just proclaimed. Jesus says:
“To you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”
Why do we need to do this?
Because then we’ll bear the image of God, our Heavenly Father.
Jesus bore the image of His Father well, and He wants us to bear the same image. He says, “(then) you will be children of the Most High,
(who) is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.”
In our concupiscence,
we humans have the tendency to want to ration out our love and mercy ...
affording it only to those who we think deserve it.
But not so with God ... His love and mercy rain down on the just and the unjust, the ones who love Him and the ones who don’t ... even the wicked and hateful.
So Jesus is calling us to be Godlike in our relations with one another.
He says that it’s the requirement for us to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
He first gives us sweet inspiration, promising: “for your reward will be great.”
He then gives us fearful concern, promising: “for the measure with which
you measure, will in return be measured out to you.”
In other words, if you’re going to withhold your love and mercy from others,
then you can expect to have love and mercy withheld from you,
not only in this world, but most importantly on the day of your judgment.
We certainly don’t want that! We know we need and want mercy.
That’s what moves people to go to Confession. They want to start over.
And what does God do in that Sacrament? Our Responsorial Psalm says it best,
“As far as the east is from the west, so far has he put our transgressions from us.”
God forgives & forgets, removing our sin from us as far as the east is from the west!
It’s in Confession that we experience God’s love and mercy in being ...
reconciled with Him ... that’s why it’s called the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
And God expects us to do the same with other people ... all other people ... even our enemies. Because then and only then will we bear the image of the Heavenly One.
Today Jesus says, not once but twice ...
“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.”
Is this natural? No! It’s not natural ... it’s supernatural!
You see, God is calling us to do the supernatural ...
and that’s because He’s empowered us to do ... the supernatural!
Paul says, “Just as we’ve borne the image of the earthly one (Adam),
we shall also bear the image of the heavenly one (Jesus).
We took on Jesus’ image in Baptism ...
an image that was strengthened in Confirmation,
an image that is repaired in Confession ...
an image that is perfected in Holy Communion.
You know it’s realizing that the image of God also dwells in other people
that should move us to treat them ... with kindness and care.
We heard an example of this in our First Reading from 1st Samuel ...
where King David is standing over his enemy, King Saul, who was sleeping.
David’s amour bearer says “Let me nail him to the ground ...
with one thrust of his own spear”.
But David says, “Do not harm him,
for who can lay hands on the Lord’s anointed and remain unpunished?”
We need to remember that all Christians are anointed with God’s Holy Spirit
and God wants us to treat them with love and mercy.
So, how are things in your family?
What about that brother or sister ... that aunt or uncle ...
that parent or child ... that neighbor or co-worker that you’re at odds with?
Do you pray for them. Do you continue to reach out to them in love and mercy?
Or do you write them off and close the door to any possible reconciliation?
Do you treat them with kindness and care even though they mistreat you?
Do your actions toward them bear the image of the Heavenly One?
That’s the goal! Jesus says today, do this and
“your reward will be great and you will be called children of the Most High.”
You know, a great guideline that we learned from our Parents as kids was:
“The Golden Rule.”
Remember that? “The Golden Rule.”
“Do onto others as you would have them do onto you!”
It’s so simple that even children understand how they should treat others.
Where does the Golden Rule come from? It comes from Jesus!
In Luke 6:31 just proclaimed, Jesus says,
“Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
There it is! We learned it as kids. It’s never too late to start to practice this rule!
This will certainly be pleasing to God ... and ...
it will end up being very pleasing to you too!
If it’s your intention to go to Heaven then you need to get rid of anything
that is not love ... because nothing else will fit through Heaven’s Gate. Grudges and contempt … hatred and hardness of heart ...
must all be gone ... before you enter into Heaven.
Today, let’s ask God for the courage, the words and the way to be reconciled
with everyone we know … our family, our neighbors, our co-workers.
Remember, the measure that we measure with will be measured out to us!
So let’s use the supernatural help that we receive during in our life ...
to truly bear the image ... of the Heavenly One!