Who I Am

Who I Am

This reflection was given as a homily at the Deuel Vocational Institute, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, in Tracy.

There was a popular country song a while back by Jessica Andrews titled, Who I Am. The lyrics go like this, “I am Rosemary’s granddaughter, The spitting image of my father, And when the day is done, My momma’s still my biggest fan. Sometimes I’m clueless and I’m clumsy, But I’ve got friends that love me, And they know just where I stand, It’s all a part of me and that’s who I am.” So, the song Who I Am, is who she is.

The question I have for you today is, “Who are you?” For a long time I thought, “I am a dad, a husband, wrestler, a coach, a writer, a teacher, a son, a school administrator, a Marine, a preacher, and maybe some day a Deacon–like our good Deacon Edwin.” How we answer that question, Who I Am, changes everything.

When my son, Mark, was only three we had a dog, and Mark used to watch him eat out of the dog bowl. One evening at dinner Mark just slams his face into a bowl of macaroni and cheese and starts chowing down! I said, “Mark! What in the world are you doing!” He raises his face up, all covered in macaroni and cheese, and says, “Arf! Arf! I’m a dog!”

Trying hard not to laugh, I said, “Son, you are NOT a dog! You are a boy! You have hands and arms and fingers! Now wipe off your face, pick up your spoon and eat like a boy!” It is entirely normal for a dog to eat right out of the bowl, but as a human, it is beneath our dignity! We have greater ability, greater minds, more tools, and we should act accordingly.

In the Gospel last week, Jesus told his disciples that they are blessed! We cling to him and conquer the world! In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples how that conquest occurs–not by anger and violence, but by love, respect, and prayer even for those who are counted among our worst enemies.

Jesus instructed his disciples, “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. To the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other one as well.” How can Jesus possibly command us to love our enemies, to do good to those who hate us and even pray for those who do us harm?! This seems like a bad joke, right? Certainly he ends with, “Psyche! Haha! Gotcha!” right? What Jesus is asking is NOT normal and it’s NOT natural–but last week provides the key.

I am blessed! I am NOT normal! I am NOT natural. And neither are you! Jesus expects the supernatural when we deal with others because supernatural is what we have become in Christ Jesus! I am a child of God most high created by love for love! We have the Spirit of the living God within us!

I am Jesus’ brother and no longer a slave to sin and death, but an heir of the riches of the Kingdom of my God and Father. THAT is who I am! That is who we are! A priest, a prophet, a king, a child of God, living in the freedom that has been won for us in Christ Jesus our Lord! That is my truest identity! How about you?

God is Love–that is foundational to WHO we are; a child of love who wrestles, a child of love who coaches, a child of love who writes, a child of love who has children, a child of love who may someday deacons. And yes, for you, a child of love who is incarcerated.

Because of who we are, Love is what we do. St John tells us, “We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ but hates his brother, he is a liar; This is the commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.” (1JN 4:18-21)

That’s how we can love even those who are our enemies! That’s why we pray for them, want what’s best for them, want their conversion and blessing. Not because of who THEY are or what THEY have done, but because of who we are and what we have become.

That’s the example of David who refused to kill King Saul in today’s first reading! Saul was trying to kill David, but David stayed true to who he was–an honorable man of God. And an honorable man of God does not kill those whom God has chosen to lead! What King Saul was, or what King Saul did, is on King Saul–and God will judge him for it. But who Saul was did not change who David was.

My brothers, there are too many of us who don’t know who we are! We are acting natural instead of supernatural! Too many of us have macaroni all over our face! We’re living like dogs and acting like dogs. Stand up! Know your great dignity. Stand up! Know your great worth. Stand up! Know you are blessed, and that within you lies the power to change who you are, how you treat others, and to change the the world!

That is who I am and that’s what I do. Join me.

For reflection:

In what ways, personal, marital, or professional Am I living beneath my dignity?

Do I more readily identify myself in worldly language or as a child of God?

Who do I need to love, forgive, or pray for today, that my enemy might be blessed?

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