Fourth Sunday of Easter Reflection
To make ourselves known is always the first step of any relationship, the gift of Love. This requires self-knowledge, truth, authenticity, and vulnerability. When we know another person and are known by that person in the light of these essentials we have a sense of being whole, a sense of belonging and of purpose. This is the gift of joy that Jesus promised to us as his followers.
There is an overburdening creeping sadness in our modern world that St Teresa of Calcutta called the ‘greatest poverty of our world today’; being alone, forgotten, disregarded, disrespected and lonely; no longer having any identity. This is a creeping disease that has not only infected the hearts of those we have deemed outcasts and unworthy, but is to be found also infecting the hearts of the rich and famous, the empty idols created in our own image.
Some time ago, BBC World Service presented a series on our changing identity in a globalised world, ‘The Identity Season’. These include stories of those people living with secrets, peoples forgotten by the world, ‘left-behind children’ and those who cannot find their identity within our categories of gender. The season seeks to unravel a complex and often bewildering picture, where factors like the technology we use, our choice of music, our looks, language, and gender are all being influenced by a changing world.
Stories are told of identity and womanhood revealed in intimate, frank, and sometimes secret conversations between hairdressers and their clients, from Beirut to London, and from Tokyo to Johannesburg.
The story of a British woman who has been tattooed 18 times, but now realises that her identity has changed and is undergoing painful laser removal treatment. Glimpses into the lives of passengers going through Dubai International Airport, which connects 260 destinations. The stories of child brides in the slums in Dhaka, Bangladesh, abandoned by their husbands before the age of 16 and who are trying to redefine their identities.
These are the stories of peoples that stop us in our tracks; to look again without the knee jerk reactions of our preconceptions, illusions, and pride. These are the parables that challenge our perceptions to re-think our views and to re-align our actions; to bring these into cohesion by ‘doing the right thing’. This, in effect, is the call of the Gospel to repentance, to metanoia.
The growing tempo of Globalisation and lightning speed communications can be unnerving and confusing, yet it can also be a great experience and can help us grow in many ways. It can offer us a great insight towards the world and can lead us to discover unexpected insight into our own personalities, and build on these new identities that we may have feared before.
This must, however, be built on the basis of a foundational identity, a set of universal standards of Truth and goodness that we cannot abandon and that will guide us to understand the reality of the exterior world, while holding onto our selves, guiding us to live in Truth with integrity.
If we surrender our true essence however, globalisation will become nothing more but a devouring collective, trying to encompass as many identities as possible in order to feed its big homogenized identity.
We can enjoy our unity; being the same in our common humanity with intrinsic human dignity, only when we recognise and celebrate our differences without fear. This is to live our lives in integrity where our inner life and our outer actions are coherent, while at the same time having compassion and showing the Mercy that was the cornerstone of Jesus as the Good Shepherd.
The kind of knowing that we are talking about demands time, patience and sacrifice. But it is hugely rewarding. No matter how we might dislike an individual, once we know and share in the person’s story, our attitude towards them will change and soften.
However, this knowledge has to be a two-way affair. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, knows his sheep intimately. But they also know him: ‘My own know me.’ We cannot Love those we do not know.
Jesus wasn’t afraid to touch the ‘untouchables’, to let himself be known. How do we overcome our own fearfulness? How do we open the doors to let others into our lives? Without this knowledge and vulnerability, no one will know what our true feelings, needs, hurts, and hopes are. Often it is fear of rejection that holds us back. We fear that if people really knew us for the imperfect people we are, they would reject us.
The sad result is that we will be known by the masks we wear and for the image we project rather than for the persons we truly are. It is terribly sad to live and die and never to have been deeply known, without Love and never to have told our story. This is our sadness; to live outside of the Truth and without integrity; to live without Jesus.
Whether we are a family, a parish or religious community, a church or a government, we must recapture our own personal integrity to live with the Truth that defines our identity, gives us that deep sense of belonging; only then can we direct our steps towards the common good and the goal that is the gift that each of us is to the Body of Christ.
Truth is both a practice and a relationship. The more we practice truth, the clearer the voice of truth resonates with the truth that resides in our innermost being. The more we practice truth and hearken the resonating voice of truth, the more our illusions and fear recede. This is freedom, the freedom that is born out of truth. Out of this is born the joy that Jesus the Christ promised his followers.
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow Love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O, Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be Loved as to Love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.