During my Jesuit novitiate, as a preparation for the 30 days Ignatian retreat, our novice master gave a sheet of paper of the different images of God. Though the picture on the left is not the same list, it depicts some of them.
Probably an image of God, i love to keep for myself is God as a loving father and mother, who is just and compassionate. Definitely we need to make a journey through the false images of God to a truer (more accurate) image of God.
I was reading Jon Sorino, SJ, a famous Latin American Liberation theologian. He would say our images of Jesus radically influences the way we live our lives. It is very easy to prove this proposition of Sobrino.
The oppressor and the oppressed have been Christians in many situations; both may or may not have attended the same church; but they worshiped the same God (or atleast we could say so).
- One of the strong and influential image of God is God as love, one who reconciles and so on. But many times these images are just abstract without any real connect to the historic life of Jesus. When I say God as love, I could always imagine love using my own definitions, not necessarily in the way Jesus (or other enlightened people) interpreted it.
- Probably a second image of Jesus is much more connected to the historic person of Jesus and his life. Yes, I know that I am invited to a personal relationship with Jesus and I try to grow in that. I try to convert my life and be a good Christian. The keyword here is a life with a personal conversation.
- A third image can emerge when we include the aspects of the second image with the understanding that Jesus is a saviour of the whole world, who came to establish the Kingdom of God, which is not a reality in the future alone, but also in the present. Liberation theologians would say, this would lead us into a state of conflict (conflict shouldn’t be understood as only negative); here along with a personal conversion, we would interested in communitarian conversion. But this should lead to a structural conversion, throwing away the structures which are responsible for injustice and inequalities.
Definitely these are not water-tight compartments. Yes, personal conversion is difficult and it definitely give a self-righteous attitude unless we are very careful. But the next level of conversions can be aid to create communities in the model of Kingdom of God. We would say,
- Peace & reconciliation are very important, but it is impossible without justice.
- Charity and Works of Charity are extremely important; but we shouldn’t stop there, but continue to ask prophetic questions to know why this act of charity is being required and can we avoid those situations.
- Probably having the third image of Jesus creates a group of thinking-Christians, people who ask questions and who take their faith seriously; who believe in Jesus and try to follow him as much as possible
(Probably the statistics of the quote of Helder Camara is not exact anymore and there are people of other religious faiths who play an equally damaging role, but it has a message, which is ever-pertinent).