As baptised Christians, one of the most difficult realities that we are called to understand and accept is that we are beloved sons and daughters of God! This is a fact that we have to learn to claim as our own.
The reality of our lives is that they are very short – for those who are strong, they might possibly live until the age of 70, 80 or even 90 years, but no matter how long we might live until, we will all sooner or later have to discover that our time on earth is very short; at the end of our brief time on earth, each of us will have to face death.
Within our life time, each of us must answer the question: who am I? There are usually three answers that we tend to come up with:
First – “I am what I do” – that is, when we are successful in life, we feel good about ourselves but when we fail in life we might fall into darkness and depression.
In our youth we might hold down a good job; study well; build up a good career, so that in our old age, as we sit back to review our lives, we can look at all of our achievements: we can congratulate ourselves on all of the certificates and prizes that decorate our walls; the family that we have raised; the bank balance that we have accrued – we might find ourselves saying: “look I did something good with my life”.
Second – “I am what others say about me” – this is a very powerful driving force: when people speak well of us, we walk around with our heads held high – but when others speak badly of us we immediately feel sad. A thousand people can say lots of good things about us, but it takes only one person to say a bad thing about us and we are destroyed! We tend to remember criticism more than compliments. If someone calls us “stupid” our whole day is ruined!
Third – “I am what I have” – we might say that we have a good education; we have good health; we have lots of friends; money in the bank – etc. These things are a blessing, however as soon as these fail us—for example if we become ill, or if we lose our property, or if we lose our spouse or our friends – we can slip into a very deep and inner darkness indeed!
We can spend a lot of our spiritual energy trying to answer the question “who am I?” – the only problem with these kind of answers is that that our happiness depends on what we do; what others say about us and what we possess. We may find ourselves going up and down on a roller-coaster of emotions in order to simply survive.
But in all of this—and there is a very big BUT—deep down, we recognise that we are still going to DIE – at the end of our lives is death – when you and I die— that’s it! – we don’t possess anything in death; no one speaks about us anymore and we can do nothing..
However Jesus Christ has come to proclaim that this way of thinking is A LIE! These answers are not who we are!
Jesus himself was faced with these same three temptations: to give an answer to his identity:
he was told by Satan to turn stones into bread – to show that he could do something; to jump from a high place for the angels to catch him so that people would speak well of him; to bow down before Satan so that he would give him the world’s possessions.
In front of these temptations of the world Jesus proclaimed: “I don’t need to find an answer—I know who I am!” – Before he entered into the desert, to be tempted by the Devil, the Holy Spirit came upon him and he heard the voice of his Father announcing to him “you are my beloved son, on you my favour rests!” – Even though people praised Jesus during his life time, and abused him and rejected him –he was free and at peace because he clung to this truth: “I am the beloved”.
The Church also proclaims this truth today! In the face of our deepest question: “who am I” – these words of the Father are meant for you and me:
“We are the beloved sons and daughters of God”
In the face of rejection, of pain, of loss, you and I no longer need to search for our identity – even in our mother’s wombs, before we were born, God took delight in us – because we are his beloved children—that is who we are!
This Good News has the power to free us from jealousy, from rejection, from anger – simply knowing and accepting that we are the beloved children of God can set us free to love others freely without conditions or limits.
Every other love is real – but limited – relationships can be painful – but knowing that we are deeply loved by God first, can allow us to be pruned by rejection and not make us bitter.
In the Holy Eucharist today, may you discover these words to be true!