15th Sunday in OT (July 10, 2016)

15th Sunday in OT (July 10, 2016)

“Be who you are, and be it well.”  This quote comes from St. Francis de Sales, and it’s one of my favorites.  “Be who you are, and be it well.”  But the question, then, is who are we?

As a people, we seem to be big into identity.  Our culture encourages us to be aware of our identity, to form an identity, to grow in our identity, and to express our identity.  There a lot of books and philosophies and theories that want to try to help us find our identity and resolve any “identity crisis.”  We have computer technologies that are designed to reflect our identities (though we can also fabricate an identity online) and we are increasingly vigilant about “identity theft.”  We seem to be big into identity.

In our 2nd Reading from Colossians, we hear that “Christ Jesus is the image of the invisible God.”  Jesus is the image of God/God made visible.  Jesus is the human “the human face of God.”  We also read, as we know, that “He is the head of the body, the church.”  As Christ Jesus is the image of God, so the Church then, as the Body of Christ, is the image of Christ in the world.  As members of the Body of Christ, this is our identity; this is who we are.

But perhaps even we, Christian people, forget (or don’t realize) that our true identity comes from our relationship with the living God—or better yet, His relationship with us.  We can get caught up in the lie that our identity is not based on our being made and claimed and loved and saved by God, but on other things.  We can get caught up in believing that who we are is wrapped up in our accomplishments, or in superficial things, or in the best thing we have done or in the worst thing we have done, or in our feelings, or in the hurts that others have caused us, or in a sense of worthlessness or helplessness or fear.  

What does our true identity mean for us?  Right away in the Bible—in the book of Genesis—we see that we are made in the image and likeness of God.  And elsewhere we hear that “God is love.”  So if we are made in the image and likeness of God, and God is Love, then we are made in the image and likeness of Love—of the complete, mutual self-giving of the Persons of the Most Holy Trinity that brings forth life.  We see this self-giving, life-bringing love in Jesus’ offering of Himself in His saving Passion and death upon the Cross.

As people made in the image and likeness of this love, and members of the Body of Christ, we are called to give ourselves over for the good of one another.  We have a wonderful example of this in the parable of the Good Samaritan, told by Jesus to illustrate the great commandment of love of God and love of neighbor.  As disciples of Jesus, we are called to imitate the example of the Good Samaritan, which is the example of charity/of love: willing the good of another simply as an ‘other,’ no matter who they are.  As St. John Paul II said, “The only response to the human person is love.”  In our increasingly violent world, this is needed now more than ever.

Of course, we know that this is not always easy.  Our human weaknesses can get in the way.  We may not always feel like it.  We may not always feel it’s “worth it” to us.  With all of this, perhaps following this great commandment of love seems unattainable.  But to use the words of Moses to the people in our 1st Reading, “this command…is not too mysterious and remote for [us]…It is not up in the sky…Nor is it across the sea…No, it is something very near to [us], already in [our] mouths and in [our] hearts.”  This is because as people made in the image and likeness of God, self-giving love is our identity.  And so Moses says “you have only to carry it out,” and with regard to the Good Samaritan Jesus says, “Go and do likewise.”  To not do so goes against the grain of who we are at the core of our being/it goes against our makeup/it does not express our true identity.

In our celebration of the Eucharist, we participate in the Lord’s self-offering and continue to be formed into the Body of Christ.  It is the ultimate expression of our identity; it is part of who we are.  This sacrifice is our sacrifice.  But of course since it is Christ’s sacrifice, it is not one that brings about our end, but truly leads us to life.  It is necessary to help us to be who we are and to be it well.  The grace of God is here to help us to go and do likewise.  And as St. Catherine of Siena said, “Be the person who God made you to be, and you will set the world on fire.”