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“The glory of God is a human being fully alive; and to be alive consists in beholding God.” —St. Irenaeus

As a child, my image of God was “the policeman in the sky.” The vivid graphic in my third-grade Baltimore Catechism supported this concept. My God had a long white beard and looked rather scary. As I grew into adulthood and entered religious life this image changed, but the concept of a God who kept track of my every failure did not easily fade away. I knew that God is love and had heard it in the Scriptures at Mass, but for some reason that third-grade image hung on.
I was already in religious life, studying theology and experiencing a changing Church in the mid-sixties, when I met St. Irenaeus. I can’t recall how I first met him, but learning about him and the theology he taught changed my life.
St. Irenaeus lived in the second century and knew people who knew the original disciples. His education was in the liberal arts and included Greek philosophy. As one of the first great Christian theologians, he emphasized the best elements in the Church, especially the episcopate, Scripture, and tradition.
St. Irenaeus brought me to a new understanding of the Incarnation. God so loved us that he became one of us. He became human in all things but sin. To be human, with successes and failures, is part of it all. I came to realize that God often used my failures and shortcomings to bring me to my knees, to help me ask for forgiveness, and to teach me be less judgmental and more understanding of others.
Every time you see the crucifix, remember that God took on the form of humanity. St. Irenaeus saw this humanity as basically good and a conduit for God. By doing this, Jesus raised all of humanity to a new level and invited all into the Paschal Mystery. The Paschal Mystery is God fully alive in us.

Sister Honora is the Director of Pastoral Services at RENEW and a Dominican Sister of Amityville, NY.

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