May 22, 2019 // Perspective

Graduation, diplomas and degrees: What is your identity?

This time of year is always marked by transitions. Whether it be graduations, weddings or simply traveling for the summer, we often find ourselves moving from one place to another or from one state of life to the next. And what do we typically do? We seek to commemorate these things in some way. We have diplomas to certify our accomplishments, marriage certificates signed and sealed and pictures taken in the places we have been.

These are all great things, and indeed things to celebrate. It makes me think of the new college graduate who is able to display his fresh new diploma in a mahogany frame in his or her brand-new cubicle. Certainly, moments such as these offer a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.

So, what is the greatest accomplishment in your life? Graduation? Your career? Athletic or fitness accomplishments? Look at the walls in your home or office. What do they display most prominently?

It seems to me all of these things are a mere drop in the bucket compared to our identity as beloved sons and daughters of God. Degrees and diplomas are fine, but they cannot be our fundamental benchmark for success. Likewise, we can be the most athletic and fittest person in the room, but we all face the deterioration which comes with age. And even the most successful and stable careers are fleeting.

What is not, though, is your baptism as a son or daughter of God. On that day, whether you were an unconscious child or an adult, God the Father breathed His Spirit into you, configured you to His Son’s body, and claimed you for His own. In such an act, which we can do absolutely nothing to earn, God indelibly marked our souls for all eternity to indicate that we are His.

So, I propose two means to reclaiming our identities as sons and daughters of God.

First, call the parish where you were baptized and ask them to send you a copy of your baptismal certificate. If you have been confirmed, received first Communion, were married or ordained, all of these things also will be noted. Then go buy a nice frame for it and hang it in a prominent place in your home or office. After all, this is not a mere diploma that attests to a degree, but rather a certificate that attests to your destiny with the Father in heaven. I can’t think of any greater reminder to hang on your wall.

Once you do this, I suggest making a daily renewal of your baptismal vows first thing in the morning. Perhaps with a little holy water font next to your baptismal certificate, you could bless yourself with the holy water and recite the Creed, or simply say: “I am a beloved child of God. Thank you, Lord, for calling me to heaven.”

Lastly, as we look to Jesus in the Eucharist, let us not forget this fact: While we were adopted by God the Father in our baptism, through Christ’s most holy body and blood, which mingles with our very own bodies and blood, we truly become sons and daughters of God. Our fragile bodies take on His own glorious body, and our own blood mingles with the blood of the resurrected Lord. In short, as we look at Jesus in the Eucharist, we see the clearest indicator of who we are now and who we are called to be in eternity.

That, my friends, is your truest identity.

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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