Imprinting is a 20th century psychological concept with scriptural implications. In clinical examples of this theory, newly hatched ducks were shown to form attachments with the first large moving object they see. Scholars say this attachment is innate and programmed genetically. They also say it explains how the parent-child relationship emerges and influences subsequent development.
Scripture repeatedly demonstrates how humans imprint on good and evil, too—and that the former always results in the better outcome. The Book of Wisdom, from which we get Sunday’s first reading (Wis 1:13-15; 2:23-24), teaches that if we imprint on our Creator and his undying justice, our soul will not die either.
For God formed man to be imperishable; the image of his own nature he made him. But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world, and they who belong to his company experience it.
So by imprinting on God’s spirit, do we take on God’s nature as Jesus did? His mission was to have generations of humanity join him in imprinting on God’s justice through the ages. He knew his life’s investment in the Holy Spirit would guarantee dividends, as Paul taught the Corinthians in our second reading (2 Cor 8:7, 9, 13-15):
For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.
This is a wealth that defies death’s poverty. In Sunday’s gospel reading we see how Jesus invests his grace in a dead little girl (Mk 5:21-43). This 12-year-old daughter of a synagogue official was dead until Jesus entered her family’s life. With the words “Talitha koum,” (“Little girl, I say to you, arise!”), she “arose immediately and walked around—astounding everyone who thought her dead.”
Upon being born again, she imprinted on who rebirthed her. And though scripture leaves her future to our imaginations, that attachment couldn’t have been anything less powerful than the inheritance Jesus promises anyone who connects with his Father’s spirit of justice: to do “even greater works than these.” (JOHN 14:12)
The human soul is programmed to imprint on God’s justice, but birth into this world subjects our soul to many of the distracting evils Jesus himself faced. We are blessed to have many examples throughout our history of souls delivered from evil and devoted to our salvation. Rise and shine their light.