Some of you know that I’ve gone back to school! Yes, professional student!! I’m studying for a Masters of Theology at the Franciscan School of Theology at the University of San Diego. I’m absolutely loving the program and finding it very life-giving. Here’s something I wrote for a discussion forum yesterday and think is worth sharing more broadly.
The writings of Mary Beth Ingham demonstrate that Jesus Christ is the exemplar in support of human dignity. The word ‘exemplar’ comes from the Latin ‘exemplum’ meaning ‘sample’ or ‘imitation’. We are to imitate Jesus because life in Christ is our fundamental purpose. Imitation of Christ is held up in St. Paul’s letter to the church of the Thessalonians when he encouraged the persecuted Christians saying: “You became imitators of us and of the Lord…so that you became an example to all the believers.” (1 Thessalonians 1:6) It is evident that the Thessalonians were followers of Jesus and therefore strove to model their life on His.
Jesus’ life showed his contemporaries and, thanks to scripture, shows us too how to live with dignity and have a fulfilling life realizing the Greatest Commandment (Matt. 22:36-40). Jesus lived in a way that showed self-restraint, how to be moderate and strive for right relationship. His whole life on earth witnessed to the centrality of love, non-judgment, forgiveness, humility and magnanimity.
The lesson we can learn by imitating and following Jesus is that human fulfillment is possible when we choose, through self-restraint and self-mastery: ordered loving, ongoing conversion, inner harmony and selfless love.
What I particularly appreciate about Ingham’s explanation is the emphasis on Scotus’ view of human fulfillment found in the love of friendship and the perfection of friendship. There is so much emphasis in the world on romantic love and eros, which is lovely and important, but at times it can make single people feel less ‘whole’ or as if something is missing. The love of close friendship is also to be celebrated! Jesus shows us how to love in friendship and I find this incredibly beautiful and authentic. As a single woman, I am affirmed knowing my life can indeed be ‘whole’ through friendship with others and through the faith and love I have for Christ.
Jesus is the exemplar we are to pursue because, as Ingham states, “The incarnation affirms in the strongest possible way, the dignity of each human person and the continuity of this world with the next.” (325)
Ingham, Mary Beth. 2017. “Duns Scotus’ Christology. Foundations for Franciscan Christian Humanism. In The English Province of the Franciscan (1224-C.1350),” edited by Robson, Michael J.P., 316-334. Leiden: Brill.