Understood and Loved as We Are None of us is perfect; and we all need someone who understands that, and loves us with all our faults. Jesus is that someone.
As the perfect human being, Jesus not only understands what we need to be the people God wants us to be, but he understands our human weaknesses and challenges. As the Son of God, the love of Christ is perfect, and he is able to love us in spite of our flaws. Because he embodies both the perfection of God and human nature, Jesus is our goal and model.
Jesus, Our Model and Guide There is no one who can show us the way to the Father better than Jesus Christ.
Pope John Paul II’s first encyclical was entitled The Redeemer of Man. In the first line, it alerts us to the basic message Pope John Paul II wants to convey to us about Jesus: Christ is the center of the universe and of human history.
St. Paul calls Jesus the Second Adam. As the perfection of humanity, Jesus gives the human race a brand new start. It is Jesus who brings meaning and purpose to our lives.
Jesus calls us to live as God intended for us before Original Sin; so that we can be truly happy. When the Pharisees asked Jesus about divorce, they showed that they had adopted the attitude of accepting divorce for certain reasons. Jesus pointed them back to the Old Testament to show that God intends marriage to be permanent. Only by honoring God’s original intent can people find happiness.
Human Beings Are Made in God’s Image The more we know about God, the better we will understand how we should live. Being made in God’s image endows us with gifts and responsibilities.
The Book of Genesis tells us that God created the entire physical universe, with human beings at the center of his plan. Humans are the pinnacle of God’s earthly creation, and he has made us his stewards over the rest of what he created. God created us because of his infinite love and goodness.
God created human beings “in his own image and likeness.” This tells us we have a special place among God’s creatures on the earth. God endowed us with spiritual qualities like the abilities to think, to choose, to love, and to relate to others in community. These are God’s own traits; and with them, we share in his own life.
Among the most important of God’s qualities that he shares with us are free will and dignity. Free will is the ability to choose what we will do from among other alternatives. True freedom is at the service of what is good and true, so our choices define the relationship we build with God. Dignity is the quality of being worthy of esteem and respect. Because God made us in his own image, our dignity is inherent and cannot be take away by anyone. The fundamental expectation that God has for us as we exercise our free will is that we imitate him and love one another. Choosing to go against God’s will constitutes sin.
Genesis tells us that God created humans as complementary beings— male and female. “Complementary” means “making up for what is lacking in another.” While men and women have equal dignity, we are different so that we can complete and fulfill each other.
God created us with fundamental goodness—to live in harmony with each other and friendship with him. But through the Original Sin of Adam and Eve, that original harmony was lost. It created a fallen state of human nature into which all further generations of people are born. We became subject to suffering and death, as well as prone to commit our own sins—deliberate offenses against the will of God. Despite the effects of Original Sin, however, human beings are still fundamentally good. God continues to love us, even in our sinfulness, and sent his Son, Jesus Christ to redeem us from sin and death.
God gave Adam and Eve dominion over the earth he created. He put them in charge of taking care of it. All human beings inherit the responsibility to be good and faithful caretakers of the world, its resources, and its creatures. We must use the earth and all that is on it with love and wisdom.
By God’s very nature, he is social. God is eternally, a Trinity of relationships: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Having been created in God’s image, we are social beings. We live in various communities bound together by principles of unity.
Because we have been created to be with and for others, we must use our talents to help other people. Out of love, we must work to eliminate sinful inequalities that weaken or destroy justice, peace, and human dignity. We must promote the common good, which is the sum of all conditions that allow people to reach their potential. We can do this by imitating Jesus Christ to the best of our ability. Living like Christ will lead us to practice the virtue of solidarity. Solidarity is living in social charity and friendship. It can mean visiting the sick, reaching out to the lonely, and responding to the needs of the poor. Solidarity recognizes that we are all members of the same human family.
Jesus Saves! God communicates important messages to us by sending his Son to save us.
One thing we recognize from God becoming human is that we are fundamentally good. If this were not true, why would God bother to send his Son to become one of us?
A second thing we must recognize, however, is that God would not have become human unless we needed to be saved. One of the consequences of Original Sin is concupiscence – the weakness or inclination for human beings to sin. Sin may take many forms: cowardice, selfishness, deceit, anger, violence, jealousy, etc. It is because of these things that we must be saved. Every sin is an offense against God through a violation of truth, reason, and conscience. Sin harms our relationship with God and hurts human solidarity.
Realizing that we are saved sinners, we must endeavor to return to God and respond appropriately to his love. Jesus told us that we need to repent and seek God’s forgiveness. Repentance means reforming our hearts, minds, and wills. It also means turning away from sin in the future. This call to repentance is sometimes called metanoia, a Greek word that means “turning away.”
The Beatitudes: Lessons for Happiness God created us to know, love, and serve him. Only by doing these things can we be truly happy. Jesus gave us the Beatitudes as a blueprint for that happiness.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus presented the eight guidelines to happiness known as the Beatitudes. In fact, the word “beatitude” means “supreme happiness.” These eight approaches to life respond to our natural desire for happiness, which can only be satisfied by doing God’s will.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Being “poor in spirit” means we realize that everything we have is a gift from God. Everything depends on God’s generosity, and we should use what we have been given to help others.
“Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Suffering a deep loss can allow us to see how close God is. It is God whose love is our ultimate consolation. Mourning can also sensitize us to the suffering of others.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” Gentle people have an inner strength that is not always easy to see. They are not pushy, self-centered, or controlling. They treat others with respect and compassion. They identify with Jesus who suffered wrongs patiently.
“Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.” The highest goal we can have is to establish God’s justice in our world. We must work hard to give our brothers and sisters what they need.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” We must forgive others— even our enemies. We must forgive without conditions or grudges against those who have hurt us. Jesus must be our example of compassion in our forgiveness.
“Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.” The clean of heart are undivided in their loyalties. They are honest, truthful, and genuine. When we put God before all other priorities, we can look at others with the eyes of Jesus, and accept them as our brothers and sisters.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Fighting, quarreling, and dissension tear apart the human family. We are called to join the Prince of Peace and bring unity, not division. The Risen Christ said, “Peace be with you.” We must share that same message.
“Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” To stand up for what is right, especially in the face of mockery, rejection, and abuse, is to stand with Jesus Christ. For Christians, the cross is not a sign of defeat. It is the ultimate sign of victory, and of eternal life.