Joe, a post-graduate student, participated excellently in the Bible study I animated at one college campus. He was smart, handsome and appreciated by everyone in the group. That day, after the two hours of Bible study, Joe wanted me to spend some time with him. Whilst sharing about his life with me, he cried bitterly. It was quite difficult for me to think of Joe the way he described himself. He felt very filthy and broken inside. The struggles within him were so much that he felt helpless and unable to deal with them. After a meaningful confession I saw in Joe an apparent difference. He looked confident and wholesome as he walked out of my sight. This is where I begin my reflection for the Lenten season. Joe felt disfigured, tarnished and stained. But it was the original image and likeness of God in him that was really disfigured. The awareness and decision to embrace the Sacrament of Reconciliation is what brought within him an experience of being cleansed; giving him the courage and strength to move ahead.
God created us in His own image and likeness (Gen. 1:26). The very purpose of our human and Christian life is nothing but to perfect each day this image and likeness of God invested in us. So, Jesus opens the invitation to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Mt. 5:48). Similarly, St. Peter reminds us that just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy” (1Pet. 1:15-16). No wonder St. Paul urged the Galatians in this manner: My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you (Gal. 4:9); for Christ is the perfect image of the invisible God (Col. 1:15; 2 Cor. 4:4). Again we see St. Paul exhorting the Ephesians to become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ (Eph. 4:13). Finally, when St. Paul himself reached this maturity in his life, he could confidently declare I no longer live, but Christ lives in me (Gal. 2:20). This is exactly what is expected from each one of us.
In making man in His own image and likeness, God “crowned him with glory and honour”, but through sin, man fell “short of the glory of God” (Ps. 8:6; Rom. 3:23). Just like how a drawn or carved image can get disfigured or stained, the image and likeness of God in us can get disfigured or stained by our sins. Sin disfigures our true self from being loving, generous, gentle, patient, etc. (the “me” made in the image of God) into one who is hard and coarse, self-centered, uncaring, etc.
I believe the season of Lent is a special and beautiful time in our spiritual journey to pause for a while and look at our current ‘image’ and ‘likeness’ so that we may be able to recognise and identify how it has been disfigured, tarnished or stained. It is a time to refresh and restore the God given ‘image’ and ‘likeness’ in us.
One of the best ways for every Jesus Youth to revamp the disfigured, tarnished or stained ‘image’ and ‘likeness’ of God in us is to refurbish our basics – the six constants/pillars. May this Season of Lent be for us, Jesus Youth, a clarion call to look into our lives and a time to examine our faithfulness in living these basics which help us to mature until Christ is formed in us.
Living the Constants: An Introspection
1. Personal Prayer: A personal time of being with Him to become like Him.
- What excuses do I usually make for not having this time?
- How shall I be faithful to it during this Lenten season?
2. Word of God: Reading and reflecting on the Word allows me to become flesh – to live the Word.
- Do I have a thirst to read/listen to the Word of God?
- Recall each day an instance of having allowed the Word to become flesh in my life.
3. Sacraments: A visible sign of the invisible grace allowing me to restore God’s image and likeness in me.
- How often do I frequent the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Holy Eucharist?
- Can I recall a recent instance when I felt/experienced the ‘image’ of God being restored after the reception of a Sacrament?
4. Evangelisation: Preach the Good News but use words only if necessary.
- How does my life become the Good News each day in my family/ school/ college/ hostel/ work place, etc.?
- How can I live out a Gospel value (forgiveness, patience, humility…) today/this week in the particular context of my life?
5. Fellowship: I become responsible for my brother/sister.
- What do I most appreciate in my fellowship gathering/ group/ team, etc.?
- How does my fellowship in the prayer group/ cell group/ core team, etc. enable me to inspire, challenge, correct and assist another?
6. Option for the Poor: Enables me to see the image of Christ in the needy.
- When was the last occasion that I saw the image of Christ in a needy brother or sister and responded to it creatively?
- How shall I make this constant a part of my daily life this week?
We have seven weeks ahead of us till Easter. Each week, shall we concentrate on one constant/pillar and make a conscious effort to live it, with a desire to become like Christ or with a desire to restore the disfigured or stained ‘image’ and ‘likeness’ of God of which we have become aware? We could do it in a progressive manner, for example: Week 1 for Personal Prayer, Week 2 for the Word of God and the like so that in the seventh week, we are able to live/practice all of the above six constants.
Wishing you all a very fruitful and meaningful Season of Lent, I remain.
Fr. Bitaju Puthenpurackal, O.SS.T.
Jesus Youth International Pastor.