Rev. John P. Cush is a priest of the Diocese of Brooklyn. He serves as Academic Dean and as a formation advisor at the Pontifical North American College, Vatican City-State. Fr. Cush holds the Doctorate in Sacred Theology (STD) from the Pontifical Gregorian University, where he also teaches as an adjunct professor of Theology and U.S. Catholic Church History. He has served as a parish priest, high school seminary teacher, and as a Censor Librorum for his Diocese, as well as a theological consultant for NET TV. Fr. Cush is a regular contributor to the Brooklyn Tablet and the Albany Evangelist.
St. Bernard of Clairvaux once said, “What we love, we shall grow to resemble.”
Let’s examine that for a moment, shall we? It’s true on the natural level, in human relations, isn’t it? After all, isn’t this why parents warn their children about the company they keep? How often young people, and sadly, sometimes not so young people, begin to change their attitudes, their interests, their appearances, in order to fit in and to become more “acceptable” to a group!
In the case of a romantic relationship, how often one person influences the other, hopefully to become the best and most authentic version of himself or herself. People often joke about the civilizing effects of women on men and there’s few things that a man smitten won’t do to please or appease a lady.
“What we love, we shall grow to resemble” is true in a seminary community. “Iron sharpens iron,” and the positive influence of genuinely good men in the seminary enlivens and enriches a community.
However, on the supernatural level, in our relationship with the Lord, how true is the statement, “What we love, we shall grow to resemble?” First, do we recognize who it is whom we resemble? Do we, who are created in the imago dei, the image and likeness of God, still recognize our visage as a child of God? Do we, despite our sinful and fallen natures, still see the fundamental goodness, that primordial gift of God, which lies within us?
Second, is our perception tuned to go beyond merely “seeing” but to truly perceive the All Beautiful One, Jesus Christ, in the thousand and one places he reveals himself each day to us? The Jesuit poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins, expressed this well in his poem, “As Kingfishers Catch Fire”:
I say móre: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: thát keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God's eye what in God’s eye he is —
Chríst — for Christ plays in 10 thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.
And third, having grasped the form, if you will, of the Beloved, the Christ, having been able to see Christ in ourselves and others, are we able to “be” Christ-like to others? Another great saint, Augustine of Hippo, in Sermon 272, tells us:
If you, therefore, are Christ’s body and members, it is your own mystery that is placed on the Lord’s table! It is your own mystery that you are receiving! You are saying ‘Amen’ to what you are: your response is a personal signature, affirming your faith. When you hear ‘The body of Christ,’ you reply ‘Amen.’ Be a member of Christ’s body, then, so that your “Amen” may ring true!
When we grasp the form in faith of Jesus, when we go beyond merely seeing, but actually perceiving Christ, we can see the Lord for who he is: the Father’s invitation to the Covenant. And like any relationship, this covenant demands us to learn the ways of and from the ways of the One whom we love. Pray that our reception of Jesus Christ, the Image of the Invisible God, truly, substantially present in the Eucharist, helps us to grow more to resemble the One whom we love, the one who is Love Alone.