Monday, June 21, 2010

Who do you say that I am?

Now Jesus and his disciples set out for the villages of Caesarea Philippi. Along the way he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that I am?" They said in reply, "John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others one of the prophets."And he asked them, "But who do you say that I am?" Peter said to him in reply, "You are the Messiah."
I sat with 30 other teachers from across the United States at the headquarters for Catholic Relief Services in Baltimore, MD when the director of the Cyber Bridges program asked us what he thought was a trick question. “You have had to listen to me talk for about 10 minutes now. Who knows where I am from?”
“Ulster” I replied.
Hedley turned his head in disbelief... impressed... intrigued.
“That’s an Ulster accent I said.” It’s also a political statement. It says what I believe: 26 + 6 does not equal 32, it equals one. One Ireland.

Was yesterday’s win at the US Open a win for Ireland?
The official program for the 2010 US Open lists the name Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland beside their red and white flag. According to this publication, Padraig Harrington stood as the lone Irishman. Whereas the Irish Republic's tri-color flag was printed but once, the North Ulster banner was displayed twice. I see this and cannot help but feel conflicted. Technically speaking, there could be a Union Jack besides the names of Gareth Maybin, and Graeme McDowell two golfers who played at Pebble Beach; to me they are both Ulster people.

McDowell was born in the seaside town of Portrush, a stone’s throw from where my family lives in the free state. After he won, he thanked his friends and “so many Irish people in the crowd cheering me on. I don’t know what it is about the Irish, they seem to be everywhere.” So true.

In recent years, “the land of saints and scholars” has made its mark on the PGA. Just last spring, the 19 year old Rory McIlroy of Belfast appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated for its Masters Preview. As yet Rory has remained quiet in terms of where his allegiance lies, whether he considers himself British or Irish, unionist or nationalist. These are decisions he will have to think carefully about because like it or not, the Irish on both sides of the border are obsessed with the subject. His identity will doubtless be a talking point, perhaps not in America and perhaps not publicly either, but people from Northern Ireland, Britain and the Republic of Ireland are already talking about it and will speculate over it until his identity is revealed.

Questions of identity, allegiance and loyalty are not to be dismissed. Even Jesus’ question “Who do you say that I am? is a crucial question. It demands an answer if you claim to follow and to believe. Who is Jesus for you? Through faith Peter grasped who Jesus truly was. He was the first apostle to recognize Jesus as the Anointed One (Messiah and Christ). Faith is a gift and with it comes responsibility and yet, new eyes by which to see the world and one another.

In a similar way, I would prefer for Americans to view Graeme McDowell as Irish. The history of the conflict, the lives lost and the politics shape why headlines read “Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell wins the 110th U.S. Open” but with an understanding of the people and the past, you may comprehend how or why I wish it were different.

Photo Credits
Graeme McDowell, Winner of the uS Open: Getty Images
Padraig Harrington
Rory McIlroy on the Masters' Preview
One Ireland?

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