College Chaplain Reflection – October 22, 2015

October 21, 2015

I learnt an important lesson this week. I was getting ready to see a family at the Base Hospital the other day. I found a lovely blue fountain pen to write a return address on the book I was to leave with them and then applied some sunblock in preparation for my walk. The meeting went well and I returned home. I eventually found myself in front of a mirror and only then realised I had walked down Sturt Street and through the hospital with a blue ink smeared across my face. Oh well, what is done is done. Lesson learnt; check the mirror before heading out. So what has that to do with what I was going to write about? Not much really. Let’s move on.

So to recap our last piece; the various accounts of creation in the scriptures seek to teach us certain truths about our existence. We considered two important themes. Firstly; that because everything was willed and created by God, creation reflects his goodness and truth. Secondly; human beings hold a special place in his act of creation. The stories also go on to say something about our human nature. Let us reflect then on what the scriptures teach us about who we are.

In the first creation account the bold claim is made that God created us to reflect his nature, to share in his likeness. We read in Genesis 1:27, -So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.- There is much in this claim, it speaks of our nature as beings with free will, with a memory and an intellect. It speaks also of our inalienable dignity. But perhaps all that talk about mirrors is relevant after all, because above all else the passage teaches us that we are created as persons with a face.

The significance? As human persons we have a capacity to face God and to mirror back to him an image of himself; as human persons we can face each other and reflect his likeness to one another. Defined above all else by our capacity to face the -‘other’, as human persons we find our ultimate fulfilment in sharing communion. In simple terms; we are made for love. We are called to give of ourselves in love and to receive that gift from another. In this vocation to love and communion, we reflect or mirror for all of creation that wonderful summary of God’s identity that we read in 1 John 4:8; -God is love.-

The second account goes on to say something further about our nature that has important consequences. There is a wonderful image of God fashioning man from the earth and then breathing his Spirit into him. -Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being (Gen 2:7).- As humans, it belongs to our nature that we are embodied. At the same time we are animated by the breath of God. We are both bodily and spiritual by nature.

Perhaps this might surprise you, but I would say the greatest error in contemporary understanding is not so much that we fail to acknowledge our -‘spiritual side’. When we speak of freedom and self-realisation we speak of spiritual ideas. No, our greater error has been in forgetting our nature as bodily. Every relationship we share in, every expression of love we make, we make through our bodies. There is no other medium. As humans we love in and through our bodily nature. Every word, every gesture, every action, is executed in and through our bodily nature. And just as we can communicate and share love when we act in truth and goodness, so too can we hurt others when we act falsely. There is vital meaning attached to our actions, there is a -‘language of the body’ that we must pay attention to. Attuned to this -‘language’, we may be surer of expressing ourselves truly and therefore of communicating love.

Thankfully ink-on-the-face communicates absent-mindedness at worst. I can handle that.