Just turning on the news, it can be easy to think our world is falling apart. To cope with all of the terrible things that are happening in our world, many of us simply go on with life pretending that everything is just fine. Well, things are not fine. We have many problems in our world and while there are many different layers to the problems of the world, I think the heart of our problem is we have an identity crisis. If I were to go around the Church and ask you what your identity is, how would you respond?
To answer that question I think we need to ask what is most important in our lives. When sculpting the perfect body is the most important thing in our lives, we place our identity in our bodies. When we focus most of our energy on becoming the CEO, getting straight A’s, or making millions of dollars, we place our identity in our success. Now don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with working hard to get straight A’s or to become the CEO or to work out to have a healthy body, but when that becomes our purpose in life, we have lost our identity.
As Christians, you and I profess that we were made for more than this world can offer us. We believe that God created us out of love and it is only in this supreme love of God that we can find our true identity. At our baptism, we were claimed by Christ, called into His body, the Church and made heirs to the kingdom of God. At our baptism, we were sanctified by Christ and were called to be Holy because the Holy Spirit came to rest on us. Through no choice of our own, we have become adopted sons and daughters of God the Father. It is only in this supreme love of God that you and I will find true peace and joy, that we will find who we really are, that we will find our identity.
As American’s I think we are wired to believe that we have to earn everything and so we go out and we try to buy our identity in all kinds of ways, but our identity is rooted solely in the love of God and there is nothing we can do to earn it. If we want to accept our true identity, we need to learn to accept it rather than earn it because “love finds it guarantee ultimately only in him who is essentially love; he who not only has love but is love.” My friends, only He who is love can satisfy our deepest yearnings for love and He who is love is reaching out to us and wants us to simply grab ahold of him. When we go out and try to create that love we become workaholics, addicts, or worse we end up completely depressed and if we are spared these tragedies we become cynical or just deep down unhappy because we can never find that true peace unless we are willing to receive it from the Father.
If your faith life is anything like mine, we can be tempted to want God on our terms. We want God to ride in the car of life with us, but we want to drive the car. We like to have God next to us so He can protect us, give us what we want, and so we can turn the wheel over to Him when the road gets rough. But what are we doing driving the car when God who is perfect and thus is the better drive is sitting right next to us? When we agree to get in the car with God we have taken the first step, but if we discover that we are the ones driving, then it’s time to move over and give the wheel over to the Father.
Allowing God to drive the car of life is not easy, but if we continue to see ourselves as the beloved son or daughter that we are, our outlook on life changes. As we begin to fully integrate that identity in our lives, our lives change forever because if we truly believe God loves us, knows us better than we know ourselves and wants what is before for us then we can live lives of surrender and have nothing to worry about.
Friends, we have enough problems in this world and we don’t need to add to them. If we are going to bring change into our society we must let the light of Christ shine through us because our own self-created light is not strong enough. We need to live out our identity as beloved sons and daughters of the Father because when we live out our true identity it will affect everyone around us. Think about it. How can you love your spouse if you have not first experienced love? How can you be a loving mother or father if you have not first experienced what it is to be a beloved son or daughter? It is only when we realize that we are sons and daughters that we see each other as brothers and sisters and then and only then can we treat others with the respect they deserve. And so I ask you, what is your true identity and how does your life reflect that identity?
 Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Theological Highlights of Vatican II. New York: Paulist Press (1966) pg 235.