My thoughts of the Orlando 49 this week were mixed in with thoughts of Prince and Muhammad Ali - the outpouring of regard, affection, praise offered to Prince and Muhammad Ali from many quarters of society. People knew them, loved them, exulted in their work, their insights, their accomplishments. Prince and Muhammad Ali were, in the language of praise, larger than life. So great was his appeal that, at the last of the memorials for Muhammad Ali, speakers included representatives from the major religious bodies in the United States.
Fans will go to these public figures’ gravesites in the future to pay their respects, to remember and to tell stories about where they were when they first heard “Purple Rain” or when they saw this or that boxing match which added to Muhammad Ali ‘s claim to be the greatest of all time. In the language of our day, Prince and Muhammad Ali were iconic.
Like the Orlando 49, they were also children of God, made to the image and likeness of God. Along the way, as their characters were formed and their strengths and weaknesses emerged and changed, the image of God they were was more or less evident, but it was always part of who they were.
The idea of being in the image and likeness of God does not come up in our everyday language – either about ourselves, our circles of family, friends, acquaintances, or public figures whose prominence seems to have nothing immediate to do with showing them as the image of God. It’s left to us to think in those terms, to discover, explore, name the qualities of a person that according to our best lights, render them images of God, to start thinking in these terms on a more frequent basis.
What is required for us to do this sort of thinking is to stand in another place. What place? And how do we do this?
Pope Francis, speaking to all gathered for a general audience in Saint Peter’s Square in April, 2014, called his hearers to wisdom,
“And wisdom is precisely this: it is the grace to be able to see everything with the eyes
of God. ...it is to see the world, to see situations, circumstances, problems, everything
through the eyes of God… Sometimes we see things according to our liking or according
to the condition of our heart, with love or hate, with envy. No, this is not God’s
Wisdom is what the Holy Spirit works in us to enable us to see things with the eyes of God.”
It takes practice to gaze on public figures, all those we know and love or don’t love with God’s eyes.
~ Sister Joan Sobala