Recently I was on retreat for a week and was given the time to pray and to reflect on the year 2020 and to look forward to the future of 2021. During that time, I recalled a conversation I had with a friend in which she invited me to think about making an examination of identity.
Now, most of us are probably familiar with the examination of conscience we make before going to the sacrament of reconciliation. In it, we acknowledge the ways in which we have sinned through what we have done or in what we have failed to do. But the examination of identity proposed by my friend was something different. It was not fundamentally focused on my own actions, but rather on who I am in relationship to the Lord.
During my retreat, I began to think about the question St. Francis of Assisi is famous for posing: “Who are you, O Lord my God, and who am I?” To hear the Lord’s answer, I thought about my identity in terms of the sacraments in which Christ has claimed me for His own — baptism, confirmation and Eucharist — and I looked to the Scriptures to hear His words speak truth over my life.
In the midst of a world with so many competing claims for our allegiances, I invite you to also step back from the noise and to make a similar examination of identity. Let Jesus speak His word into your heart and let His sacraments be the memorial of His covenantal love for you.
I share with you now an outline of the examination of identity I used during my retreat.
1. Baptism. In Mark 1:11 it says, “You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.”
Through baptism, God the Father chose me as His beloved son/daughter. With Jesus, do I hear the voice of the Father over my life declaring that I am His beloved child? Or do I find my fundamental identity from some other source or relationship?
Colossians 1:13-14 says, “Jesus has delivered us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Because of the work of Christ and the gift of baptism, I have been ransomed from the kingdom of darkness and brought into the kingdom of Christ. Do I identify as someone rescued from sin and death who lives in the freedom of the children of God? Or do I allow my identity to be ruled by the dominion of darkness?
Romans 8:15-17 reads: “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” Christ has made me an heir of eternal salvation. He has chosen me for heaven and has invited me to speak to God in the same way He does. Do I identify as an heir to the greatest inheritance ever – heaven? Do I speak to God as my Abba, my Daddy? Or do I remain in fear of the Father’s love and doubt His goodness over my life?
2. Confirmation. In Luke 4:18-20, it says, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”
Through confirmation, I have been sealed with the Holy Spirit and sent on a mission to proclaim the good news of Christ’s redemption, healing and mercy. Do I identify as a missionary disciple who lives in the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit, boldly proclaiming Jesus Christ as Lord? Or do I find it difficult to identify as a witness to Christ’s resurrection?
3. The Eucharist. 1 Corinthians 11:24 reads: “This chalice is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
The Eucharist is the very body and blood of Jesus, which brings me into His everlasting covenant – meaning I am made a member of the family of God by blood. Do I identify as a blood relative of God’s family? Or do I see myself as a more distant relative?
It says in John 6:51 – “If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
The covenant of the Eucharist is the promise of eternal life. Do I identify as someone destined for heaven? Or do I find my identity amid the passing things of the world?
In 1 Corinthians 12:12,27, we see: “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. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says: “Since receiving this sacrament [the Eucharist] strengthens the bonds of charity between the communicant and Christ, it also reinforces the unity of the Church as the mystical body of Christ.” Am I a living and healthy member of Christ’s body, in harmony with the other parts, especially the Holy Father, my bishop and the magisterium? Or do I find myself to be in discord with Christ’s body, the Church?
In 2 Corinthians 5:17 we read: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come.” And so as a new year comes upon us, may Jesus make us a new creation, a new version of Himself. For the identity of a Christian can be nothing less than Christ.
Brian Isenbarger is a seminarian of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. He is studying at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland.
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