What does it mean for the uncreated God to have created us in his image? Are we merely animals, or does God actually invite us to a life that is in the likeness of God’s own life? Do we actually participate in the “completion of the word of God, the mystery hidden from all ages” (Col 1:26) in a free and personal way, or are we directed and controlled remotely, like automatons, in a salvation that we have no personal share in, but which is imposed upon us by a (pre-)destiny beyond our control? As Catholics, we believe that God truly does create us in God’s image, meaning that we are given the freedom which allows us to love as God loves. We are called to live a life that is a real likeness of God’s life, not some sort of depraved, corrupt life that God needs to “turn away from” or “cover with snow” time and again. This means that, as Catholics, we believe that human beings can, by God’s grace, actually do good works. If this were not the case, then Paul’s claim that, “in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his Body, which is the Church” (Col 1:24) would be ludicrous. But, in fact, the fact that Paul not only can, but must complete in his flesh what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ actually shows us just how seriously God intends us to live in God’s own image and likeness.
God could actually do everything himself and leave nothing for us to do. But, what reveals God to us is not so much what God could do (since God could, in theory, do anything), but what God chooses to do. That means that God, in his provident wisdom, chooses to leave something undone so that we might have some share in bringing about the fullness of redemption for which all creation groans. But we cannot have this share except insofar as we abide in Christ, “in accord with the exercise of his power working within us” (cf. Col 2:3). God still does everything. But he does it so completely that, instead of having to do it all himself, he can leave things “undone” so that we might have the grace to be able to do something for him, since he is working through us when we abide in him. And in this way, we truly do live lives that reflect his very likeness, since when we abide in God as the Son abides in the Father, our actions are no longer futile, but complete God’s own work for the salvation of the world, by his grace.