LIVE UP TO WHAT YOU ARE
by Fr. MICHAEL ISTAS S.J.
We are many things: not easy to put together. Which one comes first?
Who am I?
From the ANTHROPOLOGICALpoint of view: we are influenced by the culture of shame(feeling of shame). If you don’t behave as you are expected to behave shame on you!
To live up to what we are there is a dichotomy between what we are now and what we should become (between the present and the future). We are not yet what we should become. A Christian is one who is baptized (present), but not yet grown to the fullness of Christ: of the Father.
We all are engaged in a process of growth towards what we have not yet reached.
When God has created us, He has put already there what we should become; our nature tells us what we should become.
So let us go and see our model: CHRIST; He will tell us what we should become. In order to be able to do it we have to use our own resourcesand what Jesus teaches us: only then we can reach the perfection of Christ. (To use our human resources and the divine resources: if one is lacking there will be no perfection as human-divine person; as fully human person). It is the good in us that must be brought to the full achievement, to the perfection.
So let us now go and see what we are in the present. WE ARE:
1) Children of God.
2) Children of our society.
3) Children of the sixth day.
4) Rational (intelligent) beings (head).
5) Our feelings (heart).
6) We are hands (we can do work, do things).
7) We are what we do – our doing determines our being. I am = I do
8) We are our feet (traveling, marching, and walking).
9) We are our future (our choices; what we want to be in the future determines our choices). (I am who I am)
1- I AM IMAGE OF GOD (God’s likeness)
What is the meaning of this?
nGenesis 5: Adam got a son (at his image) and named him Set = physical likeness.
nOur dignity: In us there is the dignity of God; so also the dignity of man that should never been destroyed and damaged.
nRights of God: they are also the rights of men. (Genesis 9) Noah: sanctity of the human life, dignity as children of God, rights to be respected. It is the affirmation of the dignity and humility to obey God and not to make ourselves like God or to replace God, or to make ourselves God.
nGod is the Creator: men are called to become also creator; God has entrusted the world to men to be shaped; men has to continue God’s work of creation as He started and as it should be conducted to perfection. (Isaiah 45:10): He is the potter, we are the pot. We share in God’s qualities as Creator.
nAs image of God men have to do what God does and how He does.
nGod rested on the seventh day: men must rest on the seventh day. This is the command in Deuteronomy. It is to remember the day of liberation from the slavery of Egypt. Remember you were slave in the land of Egypt and I have you out of it: in resting on the seventh day we remember the day of liberation from the slavery of sin. Here there is a similarity: God is always the one who does: He is the NORM. So to be the image of God is to do what and how he has done; it means to do the same as He has done with our brothers and neighbors.
nGod is the way: men should follow the same way.
IMAGE: created imitation
dignity ambassadors (2Cor. 5, 20)
Ambassadors: representatives of Christ. How to be ambassadors of Christ? God is light; Christ is light; we are light so ambassadors of God for others; others are ambassadors of God for us; it means: respect for each other.
It is a Greek-western mentality:
Soul – Body
Immortal – Mortal
Spiritual – Material
The consequence is the division between:
Good – Bad
This dualistic tradition (division) is dangerous. When we speak of Image of God we must refer to the whole person; to be an image of God means to be an image in the whole person and not only in one part.
The Encyclica “Laborem exercens” tells us that to be the Image of God is a personal responsibility. The same is stated in “Gaudium et Spes” No. 17 and No. 24.
Qualities: we find the Image of God in us in our own qualities. This is the dynamic perspective that must be put to fulfillment.
Imperfection: are we really already image of God?
No. We are still imperfect; it is our weakness that is an impediment for reaching the perfection of God. In the Bible many passages are telling us that we are not yet Image of God.
Psalm 51:8 God = holiness men = sinfulness
Job God = clean men = unclean
Wisdom God = righteousness men = injustice
Eccl. 3:65 God = clean men = beyond any salvation
Vatican II: Jesus is the new man; He is the Image of God because he shows the perfection of the Human Person. So Christ is a challenge for us to become the Image of Christ and the Image of the FATHER.
CHRIST IS the image of the FATHER.
2 = SOCIAL DIMENSION
Man (male) alone is not good; he needs a companion. This is the social dimension: man is not meant to stay alone but to live as group, community.
nGod created two men: male and female created them. He gave them the possibility of LOVE and to be able to LOVE. We love others to support, to help and to be able also to donate to them what we are and what we have: to bring out our human dimension.
nMan should rule over you (woman). Here God is speaking to Eve when she is already in sin. What is the meaning beyond here?
nEquality = companionship.
nSin destroys society: the relationship between Adam and Eve is destroyed.
nTower of Babel: to become powerful. Pride destroys unity; it divides, that is why they have been scattered everywhere.
nThe story of Israel: the Patriarchs, they try to build the family. In Egypt the story of a family becomes the story of a people.
Jesus comes in: he speaks out against the rules of the society, he breaks them. That is why the Jews could not accept Him, they rejected Him.
= The Jews IDENTITY, traditions: they were stuck to them, so they could not recognize and accept what Jesus was teaching and saying. The society, the community became closed up in itself and so there was no place for Jesus. (Gal. 3:28).
= There was a need of rebuilding up in unity, without any barrier. This happened in the PENTECOST: no more boundaries; all united again. When the SPIRIT is given there is only reunification.
= REVELATION: (on the last pages): the Lamb surrounded by all people of any race, tribe, etc. (Rev. Chapters 21-24).
= From the beginning of the CREATION to the end of the REVELATION we can see the effort of God to bring UNITY. This is the social dimension.
OUR OWN SITUATION:
This effort to come to unity touches also our own experience. “I am because we are; because we are, so I am”.
Relationship between the INDIVIDUAL and the SOCIETY.
The society has to create the space where the individual can grow and find fulfillment. A person is linked within a chain. That is why a meaningful life can be achieved only in the society. The society helps the growth of the individual, but also it can be perceived as oppression.
In the western culture the prevalence is in on THE INDIVIDUAL. Society cannot interfere in the freedom of the individual.
In the African culture THE SOCIETY has the prevalence.
We need a balancing attitude both in the society or great community, and also in the small communities.
Balancing what we receive from the society (community), taking it to build up ourselves and trying to integrate ourselves in the society (community), finding a HARMONY in ourselves and with the society.
3 = WE ARE ANIMALS (CHILDREN OF THE 6th DAY)
Let us now go and see how this being animals (instincts) determines what and how we should live up.
nGod to Adam: be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. Our body functions as the animals’ body. The Bible shows many similarities and differences between animals and human beings.
nSciences: they too show differences and similarities.
nBiology: there are some differences and similarities; ex. brain, etc.
nGenetics: our and their body is built up with the same basic material. That is why there is the possibility of so many manipulations.
nEcology: fill the hearth, dominate and submit it; use it for your benefits. But how far can men go on this matter? The task, here, is to care for creation so that nothing will be destroyed, but all saved and developed. We are not the owners of the earth, but the stewards of the creation: God is the Creator, the owner. (Lev.25: 23) (Psalm 39): we are only passing through, the land is given to us to be used and cared for.
Mt. 25; 1Cor. 4: we are servants of Christ and stewards of Christ mystery: so we must have great respect for nature like St. Francis of Assisi.
nBig question: what about petrol, smoking, pollution, etc.? If we are using all the resources now, what about the future and the next generations?
nEthology: is the science which studies the ETHOS = moral behavior. It analyzes what are the existing ways of behavior and the instincts.
nFour basic instincts: 1- anger
3- flight (the instinct to escape from some happenings)
4- aggression (reaction)
According to the Christian tradition, the way for mastering these basic instincts is to use the opposite virtue:
3- resisting and being firm
According to the modern psychology and spirituality these instincts should be used in the positive way, directing them in a positive behavior.
They should be deliberately oriented to a certain positive aim.
How to react to these following texts:
nThe desire of the flesh: (Gal.5:17). Flesh: body perceived as the source of evil. The notion of flesh is not necessarily a source of evil, sin and so on. Sexuality = usually is reduced to the problem of feeling sexuality. This instinct is not to sin, but to restore the relationship with others, in the community. We should look also to the feeling of emptiness.
nThe body of death (Rom 7:24). Here we have the body opposed to the soul. The body dies, the soul is immortal.
nThe temple of the Spirit. (1Cor. 6:19).
nThe spiritual body. (1Cor. 15:44). It means resurrection both for the physical and the spiritual body. The above is the role of our body to be fulfilled and not to be opposed.
4= WE ARE HOMO SAPIENS
What about our Thinking? Here we have the mind opposing the brain. (See science before-biology).
nThinking activity can be measured already on the second month of life by medicine and sciences, and for doctors is the sign that life is already there.
nIn archeologyman is considered Homo Sapiens because of the tools discovered and used by men of those times. Man’s activity is developed by our senses that get experience of many things, they react to this experiences and so they act: (reactions and activity): even this is in common with animals. But man even if he starts to sense and react through senses has also the mind producing ideas, reacting with ideas beyond the reactions of his senses. He can accept or reject the reaction of the senses, he can master it: man has knowledge. Animals no, they don’t have knowledge and so they cannot do it. Animals are only selves centered because they depend only on their senses.
nThe infinity of God: we cannot know it, but we can perceive and experience it.
n We can perceive and make choices. There are choices imposed (death), and choices we can do in our own life by ourselves. In the process of maturity the possibility of making choices freely is something we cannot give up; the process of maturity is a process of continuos abstractions. Reasoning is a function of the Intellect. We all have our own reasons, our rationalities, own way of reasoning. We think always in function of certain pattern of behavior according to the different kinds of formation we have received; we are also conditioned by the human and natural environment. Usually our reaction is “to judge and dismiss” because we think our way of thinking is the right one, other’s is wrong. Our way of thinking becomes our measure of judgment and so it can make our community way of life to become difficult. At the same time different expectations of life can bring to tensions and contrasts. These expectations show that there are different aims, different purposes, different cultures, etc., which can create misunderstanding. Different rationalities are possible: but which one is the most rational, most valued? The one which is according to our own final aim and goal.
nWhat about God on this matter? The Church has emphasized the power of the reason: it is sharing with God, in His own gift that enables us to understand God and respondto Him. In philosophy they have stressed too much the approach with only thinking and reasoning. In the western philosophy they have divided between REASON and GOD. If we look at the book of Wisdom we see that man is participating in the WISDOM of God and this leads us to God. 1Cor. 1:18: the foolishness of God is to have sent his only Son to be incarnated and die on the Cross. (For the human reason is foolishness, but for God is Wisdom).
So to be as wise as God is, it means to reach the foolishness of God as it is in St. Paul: it means the foolishness of the Cross, the Poverty of God-Jesus. Jesus invites us to join this way of thinking. It is difficult for a man to think on the way God is thinking. But this is the way of reasoning on which we have to enter because this is the wisdom of God.
5 = FEELINGS
We are what we feel. We cannot force others to feel. We cannot decide about feelings; they are there.
But there is a long history of resistance to feelings, even in the Church and in the formation in seminaries. Feelings are very important because they define our attitudes, our way of leaving.
Genesis: Adam-Eve. They feel desires and also they feel the punishment of God = desire for your husband. This desire for the Israelites was something leading somebody where he was not willing to go or to do sin, bad.
Before it was desire only for God and that should have been the situation, but now because of sin and punishment Eve will have desire for her husband.
Beatitudes: Happy are…… these are feelings.
DESIRE: is a signpost telling us where to go; it shows the way, the aim towards which we can be led on in order to reach it.
In us there is an inner desire for fulfillment, for God.
Feelings can be manipulated so that we can force people to react in one way or another, as they like or as we like.
The Church itself manipulates feelings, especially in the liturgy. (Beautiful liturgies, beautiful monuments with the intention of praising God, etc.).
Feelings can be manipulated till the point of putting persons one against another.
Feelings are a mixture: some belong to the body, some to the spirit.
We have seen already that feelings can be manipulated. One way of manipulating them is:
nDrugs. Drugs provoke false signal, false signs, and false reactions. Once feelings are distorted, they can lead to a wrong way of life.
nFeelings can be given even to others and so they are not a solid base, not a rational base for community life. We need the RATIO so that we can master our feelings.
nFeelings are unstable: we cannot control them, but we can build on them.
nWe cannot live without feelings. Without them we cannot follow Jesus. (No compassion, mercy, love etc.).
nOur first encounter with persons and things makes us to feel and react. Reaction is the way we express our feelings: here the need to master and control them.
nExpression is determined by culture. African art is abstract, geometrical; artist put great effort in rationalization; they try to express what is behind. The European expression is more imitation of the reality.
nThere is also emotional expression: music, songs, dances, crying, etc.
nFeelings are culturally determined: What does it mean?
Live up to your feelings = express them according to your culture.
LOVE: love is a feeling, not only a feeling but also commitment to other persons (especially to those we do not like and love).
Love can’t be determined only by feeling, we need the help also of our WILL. Through the will, little by little we can improve our feelings, they can be transformed by the will and they can be taken under control. They will become a challenge to see God even when we cannot see Him because of the many different feelings dwelling in us.
FAITH also can direct our feelings to the final aim. Feelings can be mastered and directed and become a base for our growth. They will become our best fulfillment of what we should be and they should never become our Master: We should be their MASTERS.
6= I AM = I DO
Usually when we give an answer to people asking us who we are, we give our name, or our nationality, or what we do; very difficult to tell them who we are. WE DO: it determines also our relationship with others (this is a social aspect of relationship).
There is a great variety of doing, so there is also a great variety of values; and according what we do these values receive a priority, we give them a scale.
When we value a person: do we value him just for what he does? Is it so important what he does, that makes us to value a person just for that? Is this the value that we should have regarding a person?
We know there is much more: a person has a value because he is a PERSON. WORK, now days, is considered a normal way of living.
So what is our criteria when we judge the value of a person? Work has a value when is at service of other people: it is not wrong to value a person also for his work: but is it all?
THE BIBLE: What is the Bible saying regarding the value of work?
nGen. 3; work is to subdue the world and make it to produce what is needed for sustenance.
nLuke 12:43; blessed the man whom his master finds working. What is the work here really meant? It is not the manual work, nor the ordinary work; but it is the work we do for God that we have to bring to fulfillment. Apart from Jesus we cannot do anything: the work we have to do with Jesus is:to plant the Kingdom of God and make it to grow; but without Jesus we cannot do nothing.
nGen.: we have to work even if it is not easy, nor joyful, or unpleasant. It is the punishment (the law) imposed on every man.
nLuke 17: we find here a kind of work of no value, useless, worthless.
nLuke 12: the foolish man. Tonight you will die.
nIsaiah. Work is necessary and not so good in itself.
nOther passages: God expects us to work and to do it very well and on this we will be judged.
nMagnificat: Mary praises God for what He has done and not for what she has done.
What about ourselves?
Is the value of person determined by what he does? Our work as religious is not determined by salary or productivity, so what is there that determines our personal value as a person?
Work as service to people, and not productivity. We as religious have to pass on a message regarding the significance of work and its real value that contradicts the common value and appreciation of work.
7 = I AM WHO I AM
VALUES: Mt. 25:30; Luke 17:10; to compare each other.
We have to work and not to put any value in the work because is God who works and bears fruit.
Created at the image of God: which God?
Let us go and see first in the OT: who is the God of the OT?
EXODUS 3:14: I AM WHO I AM.
God is “I am who I am”: and we are the image of God, why should we not use this definition even for ourselves. This definition is concerning not only God, but also us.
The encounter of God with Moses on mount Horeb:
nThe answer of God to Moses is like if it resounds on these terms: it is not a matter regarding you, nor your problem to know who I am.
nGod asks Moses to accept Him in faith, even if he doesn’t yet know Him .God asks each one of us to accept Him, to follow Him in faith even if we don’t know what will happen to us, what Mission He will entrust to us. He asks only to TRUST IN HIM even if we do not know all things: it is a challenge of growth and knowledge.
nThis is what is happening in a Religious Institute; the Institute accepts a novice in Faith not knowing to much of him. It is like if the novice says to the Institute: please accept me, have faith in me as I am now; I hope I will be able to grow, to mature, to be, one day, like you.
nGod refuses to reveal his name: God refusing to reveal his name to Moses, refuses to give him the opportunity of using His name and manipulating it as Moses liked for his own benefits, advantage, profit. God never allows a person to manipulate His name for his own sake and profit, for getting power, privileges, etc. God invites us to grow in deeper intimacy with Him and identifying ourselves with Him we can become God’s Image and Christ Likeness, and then His Name will be revealed to us. The more intimacy, the more revelation.
nAt the same time He invites us to reveal ourselves to Him in giving the whole ourselves to Him.
nWhy do we refuse to reveal ourselves?
1) Out of fear: because others can manipulate us; we want freedom.
2) To protect our weakness: not revealing them and putting a mask on ourselves.
3) We don’t trust those to whom we should reveal ourselves.
4) Un-williness to change, to grow, to go on progressing.
nGOD reveals himself in the weakness of Jesus: we too should be able and have the courage to reveal our weaknesses.
n“I am who I am”: Self-affirmation of God, the living One, the Absolute, the only ONE; others are idols. It is difficult for us to reveal ourselves as one who lives, exists but still limited, small. If we are able to reveal our own weaknesses, limitations, imperfections, God himself will take them and bring us beyond in His own unlimitation, infinity and greatness.
nRefusing to give His own name can have also other several meanings:
a) The One I will be in the Future.
b) God is Permanent. His will and his promises will be fulfilled; so we can believe and trust in Him: He is the FAITHFUL.
c) For us: we hope to grow, to develop, to become the more and more mature through constant evolution; so we too can become permanent, faithful in our commitment to God, and we will not change it any more. So we will answer His Faithfulness through our faithfulness. We should never fear our permanent commitment: we are invited to make a commitment that includes: permanence. Our growth will not affect our permanent commitment to the service of God.
LIVE UP TO WHAT YOU ARE:
nThere are many aspects: it is a challenge for us to come out of our attitude of passivity and to continuously change so to become what we are meant to be.
nIt is an invitation to two things: 1) to look to WHO AM I?
2) To look the FACE OF GOD and there reflect ourselves so to see what we should be.
nTo discern and try to have a better perception of WHO GOD IS, and in Him to see what we are and what we should become.
nLooking at ourselves in this way, we are challenged not to stop but to deepen the knowledge of God and accept the invitation to go beyond, to continue to mirror the more and more ourselves in HIM.