January 18, 2015
2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
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Jesus Is Our Identity And Call
Do you not know that… you are not your own?
“The Lord came and revealed his presence” to Samuel, calling him by name: “Samuel, Samuel!” And Samuel answered, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
When Andrew brought his brother Simon to Jesus, Jesus looked at him and changed his name: “You are Simon Bar-Jona (the son of John); you will be called Cephas”—which is translated “Rock.”
The name Jesus gave to the first Pope was “Rocky Johnson.” That gives it the proper tone.
When God speaks or gives a name, he is linking identity with call. And both imply relationship.
Our first relationship as Christians is to God as Father. In Judaism, the given name is followed by ben (for a boy) or bat (for a girl), then the name of the father. This declares relationship. And the father’s special role in naming a child is a public acknowledgment of paternity. The name we receive at Baptism is God’s declaration of our identity as his daughter or son. It would be theologically correct if every Christian child were given the middle name “Godson” or “Goddaughter.” Our primary identity is a relationship, just as the identity of the Three Persons of the Trinity is determined by each one’s relationship to the other.
When God spoke Samuel’s name, he was entering into a new relationship with him by calling him to be a prophet (1 Samuel 3:20). When Jesus gave Simon a new name, he entered into a new relationship with him by calling him to fulfill a special role in the Church (Matthew 16:17). When we accept our “Christian” name at Baptism (from “Christ,” meaning “Messiah”) we enter into a new relationship with God and the human race by claiming and proclaiming our call to continue the messianic mission of Jesus as Prophet, Priest and King.
We are all one with Jesus and with each other as his one body on earth, but we have distinct identities according to the “gifts” given to each of us, with their corresponding ministries—just as the Three Persons of the Trinity are one with each other as God, but have distinct identities as Father, Son and Spirit from their relationships, their ways of interacting, with each other.
Our gifts make us different. We have different charisms and different offices, such as those of the laity, deacons, priests and bishops. But no office or charism makes anyone better or worse, higher or lower than anyone else—just as the Three Persons are “equal in majesty, undivided in splendor, yet one Lord, one God” (Preface for Holy Trinity Sunday).
Pope Francis said this in his letter to the future cardinals to be created on 22 February, 2014. (I can’t resist repeating the clerical joke that cardinals are said to be “created” because to “create” is to “make something out of nothing”). Francis wrote:
The cardinalship does not imply promotion; it is neither an honor nor a decoration; it is simply a service that requires you to broaden your gaze and open your hearts… by following the same path of the Lord: the path of self-effacement and humility, taking on the role of a servant.
He is just paraphrasing Saint Paul:
For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us (Romans 12:4).
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good… All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses. For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ (1Corinthians 12:4)
This gives us a new identity. By Baptism we “become Christ” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 795). We give our bodies to Jesus to be his real body, in which he lives and acts in partnership with us. From the day of our Baptism on, we are never alone and never act alone. Jesus lives in us, and Jesus acts with us, Jesus acts in us, Jesus acts through us in everything we do.. St. Paul insists on it:
Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? But whoever is joined to the Lord becomes one Spirit with him… Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body.
“Do you not know…?” Yes, we know, but it never sank in. Or we know, but we forget.
The solution, obviously, is to remember. A practical way to do that is to form the habit of saying the WIT prayer (below) all day.
But first you have to ask yourself the foundational question: “Do I choose to find my identity in relationship with Jesus, by fulfilling the mission to which he has called me?
Prayer and Practice: Form the habit of saying the WIT prayer all day, every day:
Lord, do this with me,
do this in me,
do this through me.
Let me think with your thoughts,
speak with your words,
and act as your body on earth.