Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. (1 Jn 3:2)
God reveals himself through mighty blessings. The first blessing is creation and St. Paul teaches that no one who sincerely observes the intricacies of the world can be ignorant of God (Rom 1:20). The second blessing God gives us is salvation. The Father does this by way of the forgiveness of sins to those who repent and believe in the Gospel (Mk 1:15); these God claims as his own through a spirit of adoption (Rom 8:15). The Church calls this second blessing divine filiation in that the ones redeemed become sons and daughters of God (2 Cor 6:18).
In our second reading today for this 4th Sunday in Easter, St. John gives us a hint as to the third and final blessing to be revealed at the end of time: man shall become like God (2 Cor 3:18). This is an astounding revelation only communicated because Jesus ascends to heaven and sends the Holy Spirit to achieve even greater things for us (Jn 14:12). Becoming like God is the holy, graceful, transformation into glory of both body and soul known in Church theology as divinization. This theology does not teach that man will become God, that is, man will not expand the Holy Trinity; but God will complete His sanctification of those who love Him with a share of His divinity. What this will make us has yet to be revealed, but it will be revealed because we shall finally see God as he is! This is the Gospel; this is our faith; this is our enduring hope against all the travails of the world.
Divinization is impossible to display in art. The most any artist can do is instill in the observer a religious emotion proximate to glory. Hence we place on our bulletin cover a work by (German) Bohemian artist Anton Raphael Mengs entitled St. Eusebius Carried to Heaven (1757).
Mengs is considered a Neoclassical painter and many of his works are based on the 18th century conception hailing Greek and Roman art. However, Mengs was also on the cusp of the closing out the Baroque and this work is more Rococo than Roman. In fact the category into which this work falls is quadratura. In quadratura, the artist would paint a frame that looks like part of the architecture, of say a church ceiling. Within this frame are painted figures appearing statue-like (i.e. three dimensional) within the illusory depth of the feigned architecture. Thus, here we see the sky open up above Eusebius while the cloud he ascends protrudes beyond the architectural frame. Even some of the winged angels appear to escape beyond the painted heavenly border into the earthly realm.
Divinization, or the notion that we will become like unto God at the end of time, is a mystery beyond our present comprehension. Thus, while we have a word for what is to be revealed in us, we have no word for what we will become. For now let us be content to be called God’s children – and to act like it.
–Steve Guillotte, Director of Pastoral Services