An Ascension Press Article Made in God’s Image: Discovering Unity in Diversity - Ascension Press Media
By: Allison Ramirez
Genesis 1:27 tells us of the heart of creation:
“God created man in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”
Made in God’s Image
In the image of God he made us. Thus, we all reflect attributes of God and share in an identity as sons and daughters of the creator of the universe. This incredible truth binds every human person both to God and to one another as at the end of time, we are all destined to know and to love God and one another so as to share in eternity with him and one another in heaven.
When we believe that we are created in God’s image, and that he made us to know him and him to know us, we are called to take action in our own lives to strengthen that relationship. Just like any relationship, we must put in effort to deepen our closeness and love for God whom we were modeled after. God wants to love us and to have a relationship with us so as to reveal who he is, so that we can better understand who we are.
But though we are all made in God’s image, we could not be more different as individuals. Besides our particular backgrounds and upbringings, we all have different interests, personalities, and dispositions.
In Ezekiel 28:13 the heart of creation is further described:
“You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering: The ruby, the topaz and the diamond; the beryl, the onyx and the jasper; the lapis lazuli, the turquoise and the emerald; and the gold. On the day that you were created they were prepared.”
In the Garden of Eden, the Lord prepares precious stones of every color and style, just as he creates each one of us as unique and irreplaceable from all others.
Many Parts, One Body
I once heard an analogy that we are like diamonds of God, each reflecting a unique angle of his light. Therefore, we all see the world from different perspectives and we connect with God in different ways.
In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Article 2: 1201 we are told:
“The mystery of Christ is so unfathomably rich that it cannot be exhausted by its expression in any single liturgical tradition. “
We see this demonstrated in the way different cultures around the world celebrate Mass; the particular traditions and rituals which define an area of peoples provides varying lenses into God and his nature as manifested within us.
And yet, within our gathered church community for Mass we are all “one body” though “many parts.”
Scripture teaches of this unity in 1 Corinthians 12:12-13:
“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.”
Together, we are all one body in Christ though many parts at Mass each Sunday. We sit together and we stand together, sing together and listen to the word of God spoken to us, and we receive communion together. At Mass, we celebrate and grow closer to the Lord as a unified expression of his image.
But outside of the Mass, in our day-to-day lives, how do we find the spark that draws our hearts to God, and inspires and relates to each of us as an individual? And even further, how do we come to appreciate the many ways in which others connect to God and display his image?
It was not until a recent conversation with my fiancé that I came to better understand and appreciate just how many ways there are for God to reveal himself and expand the meaning of what it looks like to be made in his image.
Seeking Unity in Faith
Since my childhood, I have always been a person of words and storytelling. I would spend hours reading books and writing short stories. These interests later amounted to a creative-writing degree in college and a brain that reveled in what could be acquired through written words. I would study Scripture, highlighting favorite verses or passages. I became a lector at Mass so as to pour over Scripture and share it aloud with others. I kept a journal with which I would write down my thoughts, feelings, and interpretations of God. I read religious books, eager to learn all that the saints, religious leaders, and theological scholars could tell me about my faith. I had the head knowledge of Christ and his Church from what I read, studied, and reflected on through words. One could say I have a very analytic approach to understanding and developing my identity as made in the image and likeness of God.
A Hidden Strength
My fiancé and I always attended Mass together each week and it was a time to join together in the communal celebration and acknowledgement of our faith. But with the arrival of COVID-19 and the inability to attend Mass week after week, I began to seek other ways for us to grow in our faith together. I would frequently ask my fiancé to keep a journal and read the daily readings and discuss them with me. At my request, he would often seem hesitant and uninterested. As the weeks passed, I grew more and more discouraged, feeling unable to connect with him in growing together in faith.
One afternoon, I confronted him about my concern.
“I feel like we are not able to share in our faith together,” I said. “Whenever I suggest something, you never seem so enthusiastic.”
He hesitated. “I just don’t connect to God in the same ways as you,” he finally said.
His response was not what I had expected. “How do you connect with God?” I asked.
“Well,” he began, “when I walk into my room and I stare at the religious artwork and paintings on my walls, I think about God and I feel close to him and a peace and joy fills my heart. Or if I hold my wooden crucifix in my hands that normally sits on my dresser, I feel like God is there with me.”
I looked at him in surprise.
“I really miss going to Mass with you,” he continued. “I miss being in that space. I miss being able to bless myself with holy water and to collect it and bring it back to my house to have at the entrance to my door. I miss the artwork in the church and receiving communion and the wine.”
I nodded and for the first time in a while, I felt relieved. I had spent weeks fearing that my fiancés’ faith had dwindled in the pandemic, when in reality, it remained strong—just in a different way than my own.
Using Our Senses
After that conversation, I came to discover how my fiancé connected to God through visuals. Earlier in the year, he had moved into a new apartment and deemed a big open wall in his bedroom as his “Jesus wall.” He told me that he hoped to fill the wall with images of Jesus from his birth to his ascension and that way he could look down the line of pictures watching Jesus’ life unfold.
Each month we added a new image to the wall. The first was a nativity scene with Mary and Joseph surrounding baby Jesus over a manger. The second image was of Jesus as a young boy, carving a piece of wood with Joseph sitting beside him. Another image was of Jesus and his disciples at the table during the Last Supper, and another of him nailed to the cross of his crucifixion and another of Jesus standing before Mary Magdalene in the garden after his resurrection. We expanded the wall even to include modern renditions such as Jesus as a beggar, homeless on a street corner. As the pictures on the wall grew and grew I began to understand and appreciate the inspiration that these images provided for him.
In looking upon a religious image, my fiancé felt the stirrings of the Lord and in meditating on the beauty of art, grew in his contemplation and understanding of his identity as made in God’s image. This realization fascinated me as I began to think about all the gifts we have been given and avenues of reaching the Lord through our Catholic faith using our senses and our natural interests.
Expressions of Faith
Like my fiancé, creating prayer spaces in one’s home with religious icons and statues and meditating upon those images can help to deepen a relationship with God. For others, it could be during Mass, watching the profession of the Faith, observing the people around them, as ways to connect to God and our identity in him. Like me, one might appreciate journaling, letter writing or reading Scripture or religious books alone or with others. For many, taking an active role in Mass as a Lector, Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, musician, or availing of the sacraments of communion and confession connects us to God.
Perhaps someone feels especially close to God when moving fingers along rosary beads or in the embrace of a family member or friend. One might find their identity in God serving meals for others or ministering to the poor, and those imprisoned or hospitalized. Perhaps taking part in mission work abroad, or spending time in nature appreciating the plants and animals and landscapes brings about a sense of living within God’s image. For others, listening to podcasts and Catholic radio stations, attending religious retreats, and engaging others in conversations about the Faith enlivens a relationship with God. For another, it could be walking the Stations of the Cross or making thoughtful gifts for others or for the church (flower arrangements, clothes, and so on). For many, praying alone or with others, the Rosary or Divine Mercy Chaplet, helps deepen who we are as made in God’s image.
The above list is only a small taste of the multitude of ways God gives us to discover who we are in him and what was meant in Genesis to be “made in God’s image.” I have come to believe (be it cliché or not) that we are all diamonds reflecting different angles of God’s light and revealing through our individual gifts, talents and abilities, the heart of God who created us.
Mass might be the summit of our unity and gathering as a community of faith, but as individuals God does not tire of meeting us where we desire to meet him. And there is also great humility, growth, and beauty in discovering new ways of seeing who God is through others.
After our conversation, my fiancé and I began appreciating each other’s expressions of faith like never before. He started reading the daily readings with me, and I started paying more attention to the visuals around us and pointing out what I saw of God in them. We took turns praying at meals and we had more conversations about God. Slowly, I have come to see that together, we make up the heart and imagination of God, and that it is in our diversity that a unified image of who God is and who we are in him is revealed.