Sunday, December 14, 2014

Questions of Spiritual Identity: Part I

I decided to write a multi-part series on identity. Spirituality and identity go hand in hand. If religion is the roots, spirituality is the wings; religion the binding and spirituality, the breath. Our spirituality is as unique as we are. That's why I love to begin framing the unit on Spiritual Identity with one of my favorite gospel passages: Matthew 16: 13-20 known as Peter’s Confession about Jesus.

In this Gospel, Jesus asks his disciples an imporant question. It's the question. Who do people say that I am? They provide a number of responses, none of which are all too unfamiliar. But Jesus revisits the question. He's not concerned with the word on the street, the idea at large. He wants to know who do YOU say that I am.

What a great question to carry with us this Advent. We will spend four weeks in joyful anticipation of the birth of whom? Who is this person we are waiting for. What difference does He make?

This is a question every Christian must ask themselves. Who do you say that Jesus is? If you stood face to face with Him, what would you say? And what would He hear?

One thought I have always carried with me is that Jesus is asking his disciples a question that speaks to the heart of relationship. Who am I to you? An authentic response might be beautiful and meaningful. Maybe you are someone's teacher, coach or cousin. You might be one's spouse, best friend or maybe you're one of the lucky ones who is both. Perhaps the answer to this question is a response that is painful or sad. Maybe you were once friends or teammates. Maybe you are aren't sure who you are to someone. Meh. 

Jesus doesn't leave his disciples in a lurch. He affirms what Peter reveals: You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.

But Jesus also tells them to keep that answer to themselves. He doesn't want others to follow just because of who people say He is. Indeed, He knows that is bound to happen. But ultimately, Jesus wants a relationship with each and every one of us. And in the development and sustenance of that relationship, He wants us to articulate for ourselves who we understand He is in our lives. 

Is Jesus your center? Your brother? Savior? Friend? Confidante? Is He the suffering servant or the King of Kings? Perhaps he is someone you are taking more time to know this Advent.

Answering this question myself has led me to a better understanding of what it means to be a Christian. In praying with and for an understanding of who Jesus is to me, I have found I am also more grounded in who I am as a Catholic.

I invited my students to consider these components to paint the portrait of their spiritual identity. I was humbled by so many of their responses and admittedly discouraged by several others. But we also had some fun with this.
Samantha Gong qualified as an individual and took an impressive 6th place at the CIF State Meet in Southern California.  Samantha has a great combination of length off the tee (280 yards) and a delicate short game.  Here is a picture of the Top 6 golfers at the State Meet holding their CIF Medals. WOW! 280 off the tee...awesome!
Rev Dr Michael Tino poses the question "Does the spiritual life need to be so spiritual?" I hope you can agree; I think the answer is "no." So the following postings will include input on
  1. What is means to be an Ole Miss fan.
  2. What is means to be a Boston Red Sox fan in San Francisco.
  3. What it means to be a coach.
Tonight, I'll conclude with what one of my seniors included in her presentation. A senior on the varsity girls golf team, she synthesized core components of her identity here. I thought it was so creative...and true! She writes:

What does it mean to be...

  • A Catholic: Pray
  • An Athlete: pray and play
  • A Golfer: pray, play and putt
  • A Captain: pray, play, putt and preside. 
In today's Gospel, the third Sunday of Advent, people ask John the Baptist who he is.  He tells them who he is and who he is not. In the 10 days that remain until Christmas, I invite you to consider who you are. Who you are not. How is Christ a part of your identity.

Photo Credits
Question Mark
Jesus as liberal?
SI Girls Golf: Thank you John M!

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