Ideas have consequences, don't they? Convictions have corollaries. And God's Word today, from Genesis and St. John, enchants us with one of the most profound ideas, one of the most noble convictions, of all: that we are made in God's image and likeness, that God actually abides in us, and we in Him, that deep in our being is the very breath of the divine.
This stunning belief -- that we actually hold in our heart the spark of the divine -- while dramatic in Jewish and Christian revelation, is also part of other great world creeds.
As a matter of fact, this gripping conviction, while explicit in revealed religion, is really evident in the very nature of man. So we have the towering intellects of civilization, philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, Seneca and Cicero, themselves unaware of the God of Abraham, the Father of Jesus, still write convincingly that human beings hold within them the light of eternity, a destiny beyond this life, a supernatural brand-mark, an exalted identity which elevates them qualitatively above the rest of creation. True, they never viewed Michelangelo's Sistine ceiling, depicting creation, but they would sure nod in agreement at the inspired words of Genesis in this morning's first Scripture reading,
"God created man in the image of Himself, in the image of God He created man, male and female He created them ... and God saw that this was good."
And they would beam at the chant of the psalmist,
"What is man that you should spare even a thought for him,
the son of Man that you should care for him?
Yet, you have made him little less than a god,
You have crowned him with glory and splendor."
This noble tenet -- that human nature reflects God's own nature, that God looks at us and smiles with delight, that a human being shares in God's own life and is destined for eternity -- this soaring conviction which resonates in the human heart, that was made explicit in God's Word, which animated the thinking of our most normative philosophers, and is a constant of Judeo-Christian humanism, this grand idea has particularly cogent consequences for the Republic we call home, for the country we love.
We citizens of the United States of America are so gratefully and humbly aware that our country was founded on this very conviction, that part of our birthright, as Ronald Reagan would often quote John Winthrop, is "to be a city set on a hill," where respect for the pinnacle of God's creation, the human being, would be the premier characteristic.
The rest is highly recommended.