July/August 2004
Carmelite Ponderings: Guardians of the Image of God

Sr. Rosmarie Cameron, O.C.D.

A few years ago something was pointed out to me that I had never considered. I knew that God breathed life into the dust of earth and created humanity to be the unique image of Himself. What I had never really taken time to reflect on was that He has entrusted us with the gift of life, handing our being to us, making us the stewards of His image in our own persons.

How often we perceive ourselves as less than what God has created us to be! Scripture, the word of God, written with the hand of the Spirit, constantly proclaims the profound dignity of every human being in the sight of God. Not even all that appears so negative in our lives and our world erases the work of love in His creation of the human person. How do we keep our original "essence" from becoming distorted and unrec-ognizable as we trip and fall into the many mud puddles in life?

There is one tool among many that has greatly helped me in the endless work of striving. It is the instrument of people who have loved me. They are the people who saw my struggles and mistakes even before I did and prodded and encouraged me to face my unprofitable tendencies in order to change them. Often it took me a while to understand and accept that their "chiseling" at the hard stone of my behavior was a grace challenging me not to distort the good God had created me to be. Maybe the things they pointed out were not exactly what I had to look at and change. Yet, their expressing a feeling that something did not seem in good order opened me to search and discover for myself what I needed to do to live the truth and freedom of a child of God. The encouragement of their loving acceptance of me gave me courage to believe in the possibility of God's presence in myself and to begin to search again and again. There were times when I did not recognize the opportunity God held out to me in others; all I felt was their challenging and my resistance. I have come now to an appreciation of the "chiseling," which after much patience on their part, and stumbling on my part, has increased my capacity to love and accept love, although there is still a lifetime of work to be done. I can now more easily find the unique image of God in all of us, even as I perceive and experience the pain and struggle of our ups and downs, mountains and valleys, light and shadows, in the walk of daily living.

With Christ as our model and guide, together we journey in the company of all humanity. As we uniquely face and take on the personal, arduous task of being in truth who we are, somehow we become stewards of the image and likeness of God in our world, in our moment of history. Yet, it is not ours to take on the task of another's project in life. We can only hope to encourage our friends with humility, prayer and love. Somehow the infinite capacity of God's love springs ever new from fumbling, reaching, hopeful, trusting, loving hearts. Ours is a great privilege and responsibility toward God, our suffering, torn, angry world, and ourselves. May God bring to completion the work He has begun in us.

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