When a baby is born, family members gather around and celebrate the event. It's always fun to listen as everyone tries to analyze the baby's genealogy from the baby's physical characteristics. "Oh, look, he has Grandpa Carl's jaw." "My goodness, she's the spitting image of Aunt Mae." Just a few weeks ago our parishioners, Brittany and Colten Mitchell, had the joy of welcoming little Jack Joseph into the world. And I can just imagine the conversation. "Oh, look, he's got Grandma Colleen's eyes and Grandpa Glenn's forehead."
We associate belonging to a family with characteristics that are shared in the family. Through baptism, we became part of a family, the family of God. Each Sunday, as we profess our faith we say that we believe in one God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. We profess our faith in the existence of God, and we profess our faith that we belong to the God who created us.
We don't know what God looks like, but, from time immemorial, people have tried to 'picture' God. Artists have sometime pictured God as a stem, bearded, elderly man with a long white beard. Others have painted him as a kindly, grandfather type. A contemporary abstract artist has depicted God as 'the force' and William Paul Young depicted God as a wise African American woman in his novel, "The Shack." I remember when I was growing up, an international traveling singing group called, 'Up With People' sang a song asking the question, "What color is God's skin?" And the answer was, "It's black, brown, it's yellow and it's red and it's white."
Who knows what God really looks like? In the Gospel today, the Apostle Philip asks Jesus, "Show us the Father." I can just picture the silence in the room as the Apostles waited for Jesus to respond.
And Jesus, with a deep sign, saddened that Philip and the Apostles haven't understood, tells the Apostles and all ofus that he is the mirror of the Father. Ifwe have seen Jesus, we have seen the Father. Ifwe have met Jesus, we have met the Father. The Father is in Jesus and Jesus is in the Father so completely that they are one. We will celebrate this mystery early in June with the Feast of the Blessed
Trinity. Jesus is the perfect picture of the Father. Jesus is more than just 'a chip off the old block.' We don't just see 'something' of the Father in Jesus. In Jesus we see the Father. God has manifested himself, made himself perfectly known, in Jesus. And that is why he tells us that no one can come to Father, except through him.
In this same passage of the Gospel, Jesus tells us that he is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. In Jewish tradition, this is what was said of God. A Jewish child would learn in his or her catechism the answer to the question, "Who is God?" And the answer was, "God is the Way, the Truth and the Life." The Apostles, all raised and taught by good Jewish mothers, understood what Jesus was saying. To see Jesus is to see God.
As Christians, we recognize, and we profess Jesus to be the Son of the Eternal God. In his being, in his outlook, in his teaching, in his concerns, in his actions and in his every word, Jesus perfectly reflects the mind and the heart of God.
Theologians have always and rightly taught that God is mystery. God is absolute mystery. Comprehension of a God who is infinite is always beyond our very finite human understanding. No one can adequately describe God in words, no artist can truly capture the image of God on a canvas. But God, in his goodness, has stepped out of his mystery, and, in Jesus, has revealed himself to us in a way that we can understand.
And as we 'take in' Jesus throughout our lives, we, as Christians, are called to mirror Jesus to the world around us. Jesus reveals himself to us in the Gospel as the perfect image of the Father and then calls on us who believe that he is the perfect image of the Father - to do the same, to reveal Jesus to the world. This is the great mission of the Church and the mission of each and every one of us who has been baptized into Christ.
We are called as Saint Paul tells us, 'to put on Christ.' We, who, in him, have become sons and daughters of God, are called to be 'chips off the old block.' We are called to mirror the God that we have come to know in Jesus. We mirror Jesus not by the shape of our jaw or the color of our skin. We mirror Jesus to the world by living as he lived, by loving as he loved.
This is the great adventure and the great challenge of our Christian life - of our life here on earth. The early Christians took this seriously. We read in the Acts of the Apostles that people looked at the followers of 'the Way' and said, "See how they love one another." They looked at the early Christians and saw in them the very heart of God, the God who is, as Saint John tells us, in his deepest mystery is love itself.
Every papacy is a catechism. How blessed we have been to have had the popes, the great popes, that we have had in our lifetime. Pope Saint John XXIII, Pope Saint Paul VI, Pope John Paul I, Pope Saint John Paul II, Pope Emeritus Benedict
XVI. These are giants. And now, Pope Francis continues this catechism. At the heart of Pope Francis' catechism is the fact that we, as Christians, have often distorted the image of God. We have often times turned God into someone quite different than the God Jesus has revealed to us. Pope Francis calls us to rediscover the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Pope Francis reveals that the image of God that Jesus has revealed to us is Good News, incredibly Good News, for the modem world.
I meet so many people who have 'turned away' from God and turned away from the community of the Church, because of a false image of God. So many people in our world today have an image of a God who is out to get us, rather than a God who is out to save us. We celebrate in this Easter season the story of a God who would move heaven and earth to save us. A God who so loved the world that he sent his beloved Son to die for us and to die on a cross. Saint Paul in his beautiful Letter to the Romans asks his famous question, "If God is for us, who can be against us?"
Pope Francis burst upon the world scene with his election as the 266th successor of Saint Peter reminding us that the Good News we share doesn't begin with dogma or doctrine, as important as these are to a loving response to God, but evangelization begins with love - unconditional love. We are called by virtue of our baptism to mirror the unconditional love of God for every human being. And in Jesus, who is the very image of God, we see what this unconditional love of God looks like in human flesh.
From the day of our baptism until the day we are called to that place that Jesus has promised to prepare for us, we are called to grow in the image and likeness of the One who is love.
A baby is born, and everyone gather around to see who the baby looks like. We 'see' something of mom and dad and grandma and grandpa and Uncle Silvester and Aunt Penelope in that child. And we delight in that resemblance. By grace, in baptism, each ofus has been born again and are called to mirror Jesus to the world around us.
In the today's gospel Jesus tells Philip and all of us that if we have seen him, we have seen the Father. Jesus is the mirror of the Father. And we, in turn, are now called to mirror Jesus to the world around us. What do our friends, our families, our neighbors, our co-workers see in us by the way we speak, by the way we act, by the very way we think? Do we mirror the One who mirrors God to us?