Has Our Image of God Matured?

9 August 2007. Thursday of the 18th Week in Ordinary Time
Matthew 16, 13-23 Has our Image of God matured?

If you are asked today to describe your parents, would you use the same description as when you were 5 years old? When we were asked to describe our parents when we were five years old, we said, “I have the greatest mom in the world! I have the best Dad in the world!” However, as we grow older, we soon discover that our mothers are not the greatest: we get to see how impatient she gets; the spaghetti she cooks is not as great as Jollibee’s spaghetti. We soon discover that our dad is not the best dad in the world: we soon witness dad becoming grumpy and sometimes find ourselves witnessing other worse things about him; and there are other dads who do more honorable things than our own.

As we grow older, our images of our parents change. We develop as our images of them mature. But we do not deny the validity of our childhood descriptions: they were true during that time and we were sincere with what we said. We need to start somewhere. Even if we still use the same description like “our moms remain the greatest mother among all the mothers we knew in our lifetime” the description will still hold some deep experiences of our mothers. Thus, the truth about our moms would have become different by the added experiences we have.

Just as our description of our parents mature as we grow: Has our image of God changed and matured as we developed? For example, when we were young our image of God was Creator, who will protect us from all harm. It is true that God is Creator, but what happens when we meet an accident? Or some have died? Did He protect us from harm? If He was life-giver, then why is there terrible death?

Or this experience: At one time in confession, a penitent confessed one sin which she committed 20 years ago and which she confessed repeatedly. Indeed she still feels guilty about it, but I wondered about what her image of God was. It may be a God whom she feared and a God who has not forgiven that one sole sin she committed 20 years ago.

When we mature in age, we also must mature in faith. When we mature in faith, our image of God must also change. Like our parents. Who they were when we were 5 years old still remains to be true; and who they are today also remains to be true. However, there must be some change. Or else, our relationship with them remains immature, undeveloped, childish or juvenile.

So too with our image of God. When Jesus asked Peter and his disciples who He was after spending years with them in friendship, He was asking them whether their image of Him also changed. If others thought that He was one of the prophets, He was hoping that His disciples — His closest friends— would gradually move on to say that He was indeed the Messiah. That He was more than a prophet and more than what other people said about him. That is why when Peter remarked, “You are the Christ, the Son of God” Jesus was happy, knowing that at least Peter knew who He really was.

How about you? Who is Christ to you now?

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