In the image of God

In the image of God

The Church teaches that the human person participates in the power of the divine Spirit, writes Cathal Barry

Christ… in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of his love, makes man fully manifest to himself and brings to light his exalted vocation,” according to Gaudium et Spes, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World.

It is in Christ, the Catechism states, that the divine image, disfigured in man by the first sin, has been restored to its original beauty and ennobled by the grace of God. 

“The divine image is present in every man. It shines forth in the communion of persons, in the likeness of the unity of the divine persons among themselves,” the key Church teaching document adds.

The Church teaches that the human person participates in the light and power of the divine Spirit. “By his reason, he is capable of understanding the order of things established by the Creator. By free will, he is capable of directing himself toward his true good.” He finds his perfection “in seeking and loving what is true and good” (Gaudium et Spes). 

By virtue of his soul and his spiritual powers of intellect and will, man is endowed with freedom, an “outstanding manifestation of the divine image” 

By his reason, the Church teaches, man recognises the voice of God which urges him “to do what is good and avoid what is evil” (Gaudium et Spes). 

“Everyone is obliged to follow this law, which makes itself heard in conscience and is fulfilled in the love of God and of neighbour. Living a moral life bears witness to the dignity of the person,” the Catechism states.


By his Passion, the Church teaches that Christ delivered humanity from sin. 

“He merited for us the new life in the Holy Spirit. His grace restores what sin had damaged in us,” the Catechism states.

“He who believes in Christ becomes a son of God. This filial adoption transforms him by giving him the ability to follow the example of Christ. It makes him capable of acting rightly and doing good. In union with his Saviour, the disciple attains the perfection of charity which is holiness. Having matured in grace, the moral life blossoms into eternal life in the glory of Heaven,” the document adds. 

In summary, the Catechism makes the following points:

Endowed with a spiritual soul, with intellect and with free will, the human person is from his very conception ordered to God and destined for eternal beatitude. 

In man, true freedom is an “outstanding manifestation of the divine image” (Gaudium et Spes). 

Man is obliged to follow the moral law, which urges him “to do what is good and avoid what is evil” (Gaudium et Spes). This law makes itself heard in his conscience. 

Man, having been wounded in his nature by original sin, is subject to error and inclined to evil in exercising his freedom. 

He who believes in Christ has new life in the Holy Spirit. The moral life, increased and brought to maturity in grace, is to reach its fulfilment in the glory of Heaven.