Spirituality of the Readings

Let Love Live

It is said that we are made in the image and likeness of God.

Sometimes this seems unlikely.

Look at the frightening “images and likenesses” that settle into our hearts instead. Marriage, that institution which cradles the future of its delicate offspring, but also of the whole society: has it become something “just for the time being,” followed by divorce?

And wouldn’t you agree that sexual mores in the Western world are in the process of firmly and finally divorcing themselves from any consideration of commitment, responsibility and sometimes even care?

Are we addicting ourselves to convenience, television, internet, drink, drugs, pleasure, pornography, and so on?

Here was someone in the image and likeness of God. Jesus had within himself, in the place where it matters most, complete openness to love

Not to mention some parents, priests and bishops who have wrecked lives of children and young people, reaping pleasure from them while still professing to be dedicated to Jesus? “There is no greater love than to give up your life for your friend,” Jesus said. How is it possible that people who formally profess the image and likeness of God could possibly do the complete, evil opposite?

And exterminations of entire tribes, peoples, countries are now a regular feature. ISIS is just the most noticeable.

I know, I know, the good has to be factored in as well. But with so much powerful evil stirred into the mix, what can be left of the image of God in human beings?

The poet ee cummings wrote a particularly strong poem that includes the following line:

King Christ, this world is all a-leak,
and life preservers there are none,
and waves that only he can walk
who dares to call himself a man.*

By “man,” cummings means “human being,” and the one he refers to in this poem, who did in fact become a man, is Jesus. This man let his boat be rocked and wrecked and finally sunk. Then he got out and walked and continued to walk the waves of our rough, drowning world.

Here was someone in the image and likeness of God. Jesus had within himself, in the place where it matters most, complete openness to love. He received it and he let it go out to others. Do you and I dare to call ourselves a human being? Deep within our own selves, in imitation of Jesus, are we capable of making room for love to live in us? If we gradually allow it to, will love-incarnate come to life in us? Will we unite with the deep image and likeness of God in which we are created? Will we be able to act and know that it is God acting within us and through us?

If we addict ourselves instead, if we “exalt” ourselves, as Jesus puts it in the Gospel, we will wrap our souls in layer after layer of mud. We will try to become our possessions, try to become what other people think of us, what culture manipulates us to be.

But, after all is said and done, our tiny boats are in fact ship-worthy—if only we do not pretend they are ocean liners, able to carry huge loads. In a word, if we “conduct our affairs with humility” (First Reading), we will allow God to love us and live within us.

And then we will make a difference in the world. We will become the image and likeness of God’s tolerance shining forth.

*ee cummings, Complete Poems 1913-1962

John Foley, SJ

Fr. John Foley, SJ is a composer and scholar at Saint Louis University.

**From Saint Louis University

Kristin Clauson