Made in God's Image

It’s the first Wednesday of the month. The volunteers are in the office to stuff envelopes with the monthly leaflets that go out in the thousands around the country and across the ocean. We always begin our work with Mass and I said the following about today’s readings, the story of King David’s sin in having a census taken (2 Samuel 24: 2, 9-17) and the rejection of Jesus by his neighbors (Mark 6: 1-6).

David sins by having a census taken. What’s the sin? Israel was always tempted (as we are) to rely on themselves, on human power rather than divine. Thus, at the time of the Judges, God told Gideon to send some of his army away, saying: “You have too many soldiers with you for me to deliver Midian into their power, lest Israel vaunt itself against me and say, ‘My own power brought me the victory’” (Judges 7: 2). King David, as a youth, experienced the same lesson when God chose him to fight Goliath. David, forgetting God and the call to trust in divine and not human power, took a census in order to find out how strong he and his people were.

As a result, punishment came upon the nation. This might seem unfair, and David himself admitted that he, the shepherd of the nation, had sinned; the people should not have to suffer for his wrong-doing. But the sins of an individual, especially when that person is the leader and head of a nation, affect everyone. There is no individual sin. People who sin and say “I’m only hurting myself” are wrong.

Why? Because human beings are made in the image and likeness of God. What is the nature of God? Love. God is a Communion of Persons known as the Most Blessed Trinity. God is a Trinitarian Communion, not three separate individuals. Human beings are made in the image of this great mystery. We are not isolated individuals but on a very deep level inter-related and connected.

This is especially true in the Body of Christ, the Church, where each member is like a cell. The health of the Body depends upon the health of the cells. All it takes is one cancer cell to rebel against a physical body and start multiplying. All it takes is one cell, one person, to sicken the Body of Christ with the cancer of sin.

This is why, when Jesus was rejected at the synagogue of “his native place,” he “was not able to perform any mighty deed there…. He was amazed at their lack of faith.” It seems strange that Jesus, who is God, was not able to do something. But he was hamstrung by the sin, the lack of faith of the people who rejected him. God does not act as an individual, but works with people. Those who open themselves in faith to the power of God, bring health to the Body of Christ and to the human race made in the image of God. Those who close themselves off to the power of God by sinning, bring sickness to the Body of Christ and to the human race.

As we join with millions of people around the world and pray for the Pope’s monthly intentions, we open ourselves, our Church, our world to God’s power. We may seem small and our prayers may seem inadequate to counter sin and bring healing to the world. But as the Lord told St. Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12: 9).