Pastoral Message – January 15, 2023
When I was a kid – a kid who bore the name “Reynold” – I wondered if I would be any different if my name was Mike, or John, or Biff, or Ringo (remember I was a kid in the early 70’s). While I could fantasize about who I might be if I had had a different name, I realized in truth and in fact, that I am me, and I’m called Reynold. I was always going to be me. Besides that, I realized that no matter my name, God knew me, knows me and will always know me. God has my very being. Still, I was named as my parents named me: I accepted that. I also accepted that God called me, by my parentally given name, to be a human being, a Christian, a priest and God’s own child. By realizing this each and every day, I come to know who I am and what I’m for. My sense of identity is based on such a realization.
Being named, chosen and called by God is one of the themes that we can take from Isaiah 49, 1st Corinthians 1, and John 1 – the readings the Church offers us today. The Gospel passage today starts by saying that John the Baptist is on the lookout. He sees Jesus out taking a stroll. He calls Jesus by a strange, mystical title – Lamb of God. It’s not his given name, instead it’s a title that’s the summation of his future sacrifice. Still, as John the Baptist reflects on seeing Jesus – Jesus is named, revealed, called, identified, and recognized as the Son of God. The wonderful thing is, in recognizing Jesus, John the Baptist came to know the meaning and ultimate purpose of his own life. In that quick encounter, John the Baptist came to know his own identity as he recognized Jesus Christ.
Now, I’m writing this because I believe that if you think about your own name, your own relationship with God, your own Baptism, your own call, and apply a little logic, you’ll come to realize your own sense of identity – your identity reflected through your encounter with Jesus Christ. What a wonderful thing to know who you are, what you’re living for, and what you’re called to be about. You are a humane human being, a Christian, and God’s own beloved child! And God continues to call you by your name and by your very being so you can know blessedness, salvation, hope and love.
Having a sense of identity gives one a sense of well-being, a sense of goodness. I hope you enjoy such senses. And I hope you give God thanks for making you who you are. I hope you thank God, your Mom and/or your Dad, and the Church for the faith and identity given at your Baptism. Because there are a number of folks in our world for whom identity is difficult, or confused, or painful, or frightening. They can’t reconcile their minds and their bodies. They can’t accept that their lives have any meaning or purpose. They don’t feel capable of taking up a call or even a relationship, because they don’t know who or what they are.
My challenge to us all is this – from an attitude of humility, accept these folks, love them, care for them, and most importantly, pray for them. Don’t be standoffish, or afraid or feel superior to these folks. Instead, bring them to God through kindness, empathy and grace. Take a hint from Isaiah 49. Make a part of your own identity the call to be servants of God and humanity. Make part of your own identity the ability to give witness to God’s light and salvation. Then, you’ll be living out the grace of your Baptism, each and every day. Plus you’ll have others rightly identify you as Christian, reflecting Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!