Diary of a ghetto priest | Brotherhood: finding our identity (Part IV)
I nearly lost my identity in the years of 1970-1981. Though I was studying for the priesthood, there was little sense of community in the Jesuits. The rules and constitutions had lost their imperative, and my purpose for living vows became arbitrary.
We were in an age of free fall, and we are still in such an age.
Each person defines himself or herself and must do so at the peril of simply drifting through life. I belonged to an order of most wonderful men, the Jesuits, the kindest, the most talented. I loved those men, and still do. I'll be forever grateful for all that I have received. But it was also clear to me, I could not live adrift. I had to live purposefully, with clarity, with clear, defined goals, and a way to get there in fellowship, in brotherhood.
I realised then that it was not just I who was adrift, seeking my identity, but that the world at large was lost and in confusion, personally, nationally, and globally. Everything was relative - relative to the individual and what each person wanted to be and to do - to the peril of an international brotherhood and objective purpose.
Certainly, we are all individuals, but equally certain is the fact that there is a commonality between us. Each of us is different from all others, but all of us belong to a common identity. I cannot think of a better person than Christ to be or to follow. He is our Lord, we share the same Father, and His blood which He offers to all mankind.
The Eucharist, however, without the reality of our poor, is empty.
We may receive communion every single day of our lives and yet it could be empty because it does not contain the broken body of our brothers and sisters with us. Today, the nations are uniting over money. On the other hand, is it money that will bring forth meaning in our lives? What is the vision of the Catholic Church today? The vision of the Catholic Church today said by the successive popes is the new evangelisation.
It is not only the priest, not only the sister, but it is the Christian who is the missionary today. All of you are called, "Go to the ends of the world to the most forgotten of people - heal their wounds, be with them." We are looking meaning for our lives. We find that young people today are in confusion. They don't know where to go, what to do, what to study - what to pursue after they become adults.
Who are we, Lord? What is my name? My name is Christ; Christian is my name - that is the most important identification that I have. Christ, I am Christ in the world! As Christ for the world, my body and blood is important for the salvation of this world.
You and I are the bread of life as Jesus our brother is. All that you have, every talent that you possess belongs to Jesus, we are made holy by our lives in Christ Jesus so that others may know the love of God. The new evangelisation, how marvellous!
Vatican has awakened us. It is no longer just the priest, it is you lay people who are the people of God; who are Christ. Where are you going in life?
Is it going to be once again that terrible cry of 100 years ago: that the identity everyone wants is to be a millionaire? Is it going to be what every American wants to be? Or will we sacrifice our lives for others? I offered Mass today, it is not just the Word of God, it's an altar, and on that altar lies the crucified body of Christ. I am Christian, but I am also Catholic, we believe in the sacrifice of the Mass that we are here to live and die for one another. What a beautiful vocation that has been given to us.
In today's world, will it be that our young people are going to search for glory? Will they go and search for money? Or are they going to look for true happiness. What a strange matter, this church of ours, sacrifice means love; pouring ourselves out for the forgotten ones in the world. Will we build a false world in which we believe that being rich is going to bring happiness, is it the same selfishness, once again? Or will we find out that true happiness is self-sacrifice? The American dream, is it not falsehood? Haven't you tried it and aren't you driven to a sense of hopelessness and emptiness?
In our narcotic world, we need to have clarity. The Lord has told us "you cannot serve God and mammon". The world is telling us, "don't leave all things behind", but Jesus is saying, "Leave all things behind and come and follow me". We are told that we can live comfortably and be believers of the crucified Christ. But we know that until we poured ourselves out and there's nothing left in us, talent, time, energy, means, until we have given up everything for the salvation of the world; we have not yet fulfilled our true identity. There is absoluteness in the love of God, and I find in young people today that there is absolute desire to follow Christ. Young people today are not looking for a half measure, they are looking for a total and complete commitment; they want to be swallowed up as I am now.
God must have everything. He must own your mind and heart, He must own your every day; every talent. He loves you, He wants you, He wants everything you are including your weaknesses and your sins. What a God He is that He accept even my sinfulness; who accepts Mary Magdalene the sinner! Learning to forgive sins is a very difficult thing. We are as imperfect, sinful, weak, and incomplete as people and yet the Lord teaches us to love.
Christ is our brother, and He is our identity. Live and die in Christ, and you will find your true identity in Christ our brother and our God.