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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Who do you say that I am?

Who am I? Jesus asks...

Last week Fr. David and I were the spiritual directors for Happening retreat for high school youth. One of the first talks has to do with self identity. "Who am I?" was also a huge question for the youth I worked with thirty years ago. It was a huge issue for me and my peers. Some things have not changed...

The "who am I?" question is particularly relevant to the teen aged transition from childhood to adulthood. It is also a lifelong question for particular types of personality. While some ask "what should I do?" or "how does this work?" or "can we have fun?" -- there is a subset of individuals who are forever haunted by the question, "Who am I?"

"Who am I?"
Personal identity matters. Who I am produces what I do. It shapes my relationships and human interactions. My identity impacts my way of being in the world.

Identity questions are at the heart of several stages of human development. "Who am I?" asks the anxious teen--and for them it is informative for deciding what to do with the future: "What do I want to be when I grow up?" For those of us who have passed through the summer of life and are entering the winter years, (people sixty or above) the same question,"Who am I?" now has a different slant---it is the work of being reconciled with the choices and decisions we have made: that pile of memories which form the story of our lifetime. Many of us are at the point in life when we have to come to grips with the realities which we have made out of all those possibilities which lay before as young people.

God's Wisdom cries out to us, whether we are freshly on the path or tottering towards its end. Wisdom invites us to ask the questions, "Who am I? What will I be? Who am I? What have I done and become?" But Wisdom warns us that our hearts are foolish and our minds unfocused. The silliness of the world and flesh are obstacles to clear, wise thinking. The silliness of Satan's rebellious temptation can seduce and mislead us. Wisdom calls out to us in the streets of our life. Who will leave silliness and folly?

"Who am I?" is a social, political, psychological, economic question. A battery of tests and interviews are helpful in uncovering the answer. However, it is also a deeper question, a theological question.

Who am I in the eyes of God? That is what Jesus was really asking.
Peter correctly answered. You are the Messiah. 
He had knowledge of the truth, but He lacked the fullness of wisdom. He knew Jesus was the Messiah; he did not understand what that title meant.
That's the problem of being smart but not wise! We get the answer right but are still blind to what the answer means...

The Messiah, Jesus said, must suffer greatly then die, then rise again. 
The Messiah, Peter answered, will do nothing of the sort.
And that is the subtle work of Satan, which Jesus unmasks with brutal honesty. Peter, the one who confesses Jesus, is now the one who betrays Jesus. (A role which he will occupy again later in the Gospel.) As we read about him, we do well to ask how the spirit of Peter, the spirit of the satan, is at work in our own relationship with Jesus!

Knowing Who Jesus is and knowing what that means is the first step. As Jesus quickly makes clear: the identity of Jesus is the source of our own identity. 

Who He is makes us who we are. "Follow me" He says. "do what I do....carry a cross. Lose your life in Me so you can save it. Do not listen to the world. They offer you a counterfeit salvation..."

Who am I?
I am Jesus' disciple. 
That is my identity, my relationship to Jesus is more central to answering the question-- "Who am I?" --than any other could be.

"Will I be a good person or a bad person? Will I be faithful?" ask the young people.
"Am I a good man or a bad man? Have I been faithful?" Others of us now wonder.

"Have I lived a life worthy of the Lord?" It is a question to fret about.

Such questions need asking and they need answering. But they are not the central question. The central question of identity, the truest meaning of "who am I?" is found in the relationship I have with Messiah. 

Am I His?
Do I love Jesus?
Do I live my life and see myself in terms of Him?
Have I decreased so He can increase? For that is who I am and that is what I must do---suffer and die my self---to be His.

I pray we each have the courage to embrace our crosses and the endurance to carry that cross across the dry, hot days of our lives.
I pray we will carry them with joy. The joy which flows from peace, a peace we experience because we follow Jesus. I pray for the joy that flows from hope--the hope that crucifixion is not the last word. Resurrection is the last word.
Not hate, but love.
Not darkness, but light
Not death, but life.
Not despair, but hope.

Who Am I?
Who are you?  

You, me----we are His! Who else would we want to be?

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