Jesus utters an uncomfortable phrase in today’s Gospel: “You are gods.” As a good teacher, he’s quoting and referencing his source, scripture, but still, this is unsettling. We as people never want to equate ourselves with God. And isn’t there a contradiction here? What was that first commandment? You shall have no other gods before me.
History is full of people who claimed to be God. However, we know their idea of divinity was deeply flawed. For them, divinity was equated to a supreme and all-controlling power. This creates an image of divinity that is self-interested, corrupted by greed, exclusive, and destructive. Power is lost once weakness is shown, resulting in an obsession with self-preservation and a consuming fear of death. It’s a tragic, all-too-real story repeated time and time again.
And then, there’s Jesus. A man who showed us that divinity comes through surrender, a letting go, vulnerability. When faced with a crowd ready to kill him, Jesus did not challenge them with weapons but with words. He simply reminded them of his good works done for the service of others, works that reveal the loving presence of God in the everyday. There is no pursuit of power or wealth in a man like Jesus. For Jesus, God is love, and if love is within us, so is God. Isn’t that enough?
So, how does that settle now? You are gods. If you still find that unsettling, trust me, I’m with you. It’s a great responsibility that Jesus puts upon us. Here we have Jesus radically calling us to approach each person as a god—a person worth honoring, one to be treated with respect and dignity, created in the image and likeness of God. It’s a call to action; the verb is love.
Josh Utter is originally from Madison, WI, and a graduate of Loras College in Dubuque, IA. Based in Washington, D.C., Josh is the outreach and advocacy coordinator for Jesuit Refugee Service/USA. He also currently serves as a resident minister on Georgetown University’s campus. Prior to his work in work in D.C., Josh was a Peace Corps volunteer in Sierra Leone and spent time in discernment with the Midwest Jesuits.