Dear Brothers & Sisters,
Last week we began to reflect on how the individualism of today’s society affects us and our community. This week I would like to look back at our origins and see how far we got from it.
The book of Genesis reveals that man was created in the image and likeness of God. There is an ontological unity between the human race, although there is also a distinction on the basis of identity. “Man and woman he created them” (Gn 2:27). Therefore, there is an element of unity that the created man shares with everyone else, but it is manifested differently in their masculinity and femininity. Pope Saint John Paul II uses this argument at the beginning of his famous Wednesday’s catechesis “Human Love in the Divine Plan”, which later became known as the “Theology of the Body.” A similar distinction of personhood in the unity of God can be drawn from this initial argument.
Our faith rests on the belief that there is only One God, the almighty Father, the only begotten Son, and the Holy Spirit. (Catechism 233). Although there is a distinction of persons, there is a unity in being. Although the understanding of the Trinity can be very complicated, St. Augustine makes a simple analogy that has more dissimilarities and similarities, but it helps understand a little better the mystery of the Trinity. He compares the relationship between the three persons of the trinity with a married couple who has a child. The husband and wife love each other so much that they are united into one flesh and one spirit and there is a third person as a result of that union, a child. The Father is the eternal Lover, the Son is the beloved, and the Holy Spirit is the eternal Love between the Father and the Son. This is to say that love is what unites the three distinct persons of the Trinity into one being, one God. In a family love is what unites the husband and wife with their child. Therefore, we can conclude that being created in the image and likeness of God means that we are created into a communion of persons, which can go beyond our families. There cannot be love when a person is by himself, as we see in Adam before Eve is created. The great exultation of Adam in meeting Eve is that “finally” there is someone that he can truly love.
This leads back into our daily lives. The individualistic man wants to be isolated by himself so that people would not bother him or just leave him alone. He does not necessarily need to be completely alone, but rather he can close himself in a circle of friends, household, etc. The moment in which we close ourselves to others, we start losing our identity as persons. If we are created in the image and likeness of God, and what unites each other is love, then the answer is in loving others, not in closing ourselves to others. Because of sin, we can be afraid of being hurt by others, or we are distrustful of each other’s intentions, causing a separation/barrier from each other. I should add that this can also happen inside the families, households, communities, and parishes. As we pointed out last week, we cannot love each other unless we know each other. To know a person is not to know things about him or her. I often use the example that we all know Tom Brady. However, we don’t really know him. We know things about him. There is no relationship between us and him. And without a relationship, there can be no love. Just as in the Trinity, it is the relationship between three distinct persons that makes the unity in love. Once more, if we are created in the image and likeness of God, therefore we are created for and from a relationship of love, not loneliness and isolation.
We may think that we are Ok, or that we can handle adverse moments by ourselves, but the truth is that we can’t. We need one another as a community. God created us to be in communion with one another, and not in isolation. As we can “push” people away from us as a defense mechanism, we should instead “embrace” one another. In tragic moments, our country has come together as a way to support one another, but sadly this only happens sporadically and it’s for a short time. However, these moments show us that we can be this supportive community. We can come together. On a personal scale, when our loved ones are sick, or pass away, our families come together to support one another. We do have the ability, but sometimes it lacks desire or intentionality. Building a community takes time, but if we don’t take the first step, we will never get there. Once we build the community, the relationships come together as we see St. Paul writing to the community of Galatia, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is no male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Therefore, if today you feel called to enter into a relationship of love, also known as “communion”, with Christ, then we need to enter in a relationship with one another.
Father Steven Clemence