When is the last time that you thought about your “identity” as a person? Perhaps that thought, when it came, led you to the question of “why you were created?” If we look at inanimate things we can generally determine the purpose for which the item was created. A motor vehicle is created to transport people and things. An exercise machine is created to assist a person to exercise. A kettle is created to heat water etc. Sometimes the created item is used for a purpose not contemplated by its creator. An exercise machine used to hang or dry laundry would be one example.
The ancient Philosopher, Socrates, apparently used to go around asking people annoying but simple questions like “What makes a good carpenter?” Most replies would presumably relate to the quality of the finished product. When Socrates asked the question, what makes a good person?” people were often stumped and argued about the correctness of the answer or many simply said “ they did not know”. Socrates would reply: “what is more important: to know what makes a good carpenter or to know what makes a good person?
The human identity, vested as it is with a soul, exhibits the ability to experience emotions, stimulate thought and make decisions. It is these characteristics, among others, that distinguish us from all other animal species. We share with our Creator and with “Angelic Persons” the ability to know ourselves, to possess ourselves, to communicate ourselves with others, to give ourselves in faith and in love and to covenant with God and this is all exercised in freedom. It is these characteristics and abilities that define each of us as a “personal being” or a “person”. As human persons we are created in the “Image and likeness” of God [Genesis 1: 26-31]. The answer to the question of “what it means to be made in the image and likeness of God” is that we are “persons”.
Although human persons will maintain their created status as made in the “image” of God, they may well lose, perhaps just temporarily, their “likeness” to God. Persons are created out of love by God to be in relationship with God. They are meant to imitate God and in doing so maintain their likeness to God. Unfortunately, sometimes we embrace a likeness to the world rather than to God and pursue our activities in such a fashion as to shed our dignity by acting as animals motivated solely by instinct the way an animal eats, sleeps and mates.
If we are to be fully human personal beings we do so by imitating our Creator. It is the “likeness” that separates us from those who, although made in God’s image, have nevertheless allowed the likeness to be tarnished or to disappear.
As Christians we are called to be Disciples. Our hearts should burn with the desire to imitate Jesus in the way we live that others too might come to know him. As each of us is gifted in different ways, each of us possesses the ability to significantly imitate Jesus in some area of ministry. It may be in service, or healing, prayer or teaching or some other activity that we are uniquely gifted to exploit for the benefit of the Body of Christ. Sometimes we need to dive in to determine what that calling is. As we pursue our calling we are dusting up the likeness. Many thanks to Fr. Bazil Burns a member of the Diocesan Evangelization Team in Prince George for the impetus for this post which flow out of his presentation on the “Heart of a Missionary Disciple”.