March 18, 2011 – In His Image

This has been one of those weeks when nothing obvious has popped into my head to write about, so I had to go on a search for some inspiration (another good reason to get on the computer – cool!).  This time I went to the website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (www.usccb.org), which I highly recommend.  It has a lot of great information for Catholics, including news, the daily Mass readings, reflections, etc.  I first went to the readings for this Sunday and I was reminded that the Second Sunday of Lent brings us the story of the Transfiguration in which Jesus appeared on the mountain top along with Moses and Elijah to the disciples Peter, James and John.  The voice of God  then proclaims to the disciples that “this is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”  Thus the true identity of Jesus as fully human as well as fully divine is revealed.

Reading this story again took me down a little different train of thought.  We were taught in our religion classes that we are all creations of God, and thus have been made in His image.  I continue to pass this message along to my students today.  It is God who gives us our identity.  In the eyes of God we are all uniquely made yet we are all equals.  So why is it that so many people are anxious to change their God-given image?  Millions and millions of dollars are spent by people wanting to improve or totally change their image.  Magazines and websites are totally devoted to this.  TV shows glorify plastic surgery and other radical changes in people’s images.  Why is it that people want to take God’s creation and totally change it?

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t want to improve ourselves.  If we think we will look better by losing weight or trying a different hairstyle, then more power to us.  But why is it that so many people want to completely alleviate the image they inherited from God?  I wonder if they really feel that they will look better if they get this radical work done, or if their real goal is to try to change their identity – the way that they present themselves.  I’m not satisfied with the way things are going and people are making comments about my appearance so I need to change something.

In my religion class we do a section on decision making, and as a part of it we talk about the values we hold and the four groups that can influence those values: our family, friends, church, and the media.  More and more it seems that the media is taking a stronghold on our decision making, which is understandable considering that there is so much more new media present than there was even 20 years ago – hundreds of TV channels, internet, movies on demand, etc.  Not only has the amount of media changed, but the message and focus of the media has changed.  Despite all that is happening in the world such as the tragic earthquake in Japan and all of the unrest in the Middle East, rarely does a newscast go by without some mention of the latest antics of Charlie Sheen, or the latest outrageous outfit worn by Lady Gaga (who would have thought a Catholic blog would have mentioned Lady Gaga?).  And along with these stories usually comes a mention of the “image” that these people are portraying, and thus many of us, particularly young people, are persuaded to follow suit.  The message that we as Christians need to be proclaiming is that we were indeed made in God’s image, and that no matter what we see or hear from outside forces, no matter what our peers may be trying to persuade us to do, that all of God’s creatures are good, and that we should be proud of our unique image.

As I was perusing the USCCB website, I also read about the church’s reaction to a decision by President Obama to instruct the Justice Dept. not to defend sections of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in the current court cases where it is being challenged.  His reasoning is that this Act is a form of sexual orientation discrimination.  DOMA was passed in 1996.  It says that “for the purpose of acts of Congress or regulations the word ‘marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word ‘spouse’ refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or wife.”  DOMA also prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex “marriages”.

This ruling of course is contrary to what the Catholic Church teaches us about the institution of marriage.  Archbishop Timothy Dolan, current President of the USCCB, offered a persuasive statement in response.  Here is a link to his statement:

www.usccb.org/comm/archives/2011/11-043.shtml

We as Catholics should not only be proud of our personal identities, but should also be proud of our beliefs which have been tested over time, and have only recently been challenged.  We, too, are seeing an increased influence by our media to persuade our values.  We cannot be afraid to stand up for our beliefs even if it may not be the culturally “popular” thing to do.

Couple of random things to finish off.  First you will want to check the homepage of our website, www.maryhoc.org.  You will find a link to our dinner/auction booklet which lists all of the auction items as well as information about the evening.  Also, there is a link to information about how you can make a donation to the relief efforts in Japan.  You can make a donation to St. Mary’s and we will forward it to the Diocese who will send it on to Catholic Relief Services.  You can also donate directly to Catholic Relief Services.  All of the information is there.

Finally, my temptation of the week occurred today.  In exploring items at Wal-Mart I came across peanut butter crunch Moon Pies.  Alas, my diet and my Lenten regimine wouldn’t allow me to partake (grrrrrrrrr!).

Enjoy the first week of spring.  Peace.

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