Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Measure of Our Identity

Thursday: 17 July, 2014 –– Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Isaiah 26:7–9, 12, 16–19 / Matthew 11:28–30
The Measure of Our Identity

The opening prayer for today asks for “the grace to reject whatever is contrary to the name of Christ....” The first reading (Isaiah ) invokes much the same thing with a positive aspiration: Your name and your title are the desire of our souls.

This text from Isaiah recurs in the Daily Office in the Liturgy of the Hours and it has become one of my ongoing prayers. It reminds me to give care to how I am known––the measure of our identity.

Those who have known me through past the few decades are well acquainted with what was an obsession for bird hunting. This shooting sport and all that went with it consumed my spare time, my discretionary spending, and my outward appearance (all my neckties had a bird hunting motif, and I always wore a tie with my tweeds when I hunted). I kept a meticulous hunting journal, built a “shooting library” and decorated my home with upland art. (I did open this paragraph admitting an “obsession”).

About ten years ago there was a serendipitous incident that the Lord used to convict me of this. I was at a cultural event at Messiah College (where I had once been an associate pastor) and one of my former parishioners, whom I had not seen for over a decade, was there. When he saw me he came over with a big smile and handshake; the first words out of his mouth were: “Are you still chasing those pheasants?”

My inner heart heard the Holy Spirit ask a different question: After all these years, is this the first thing that comes to his mind about one of his former pastors? It’s the measure of our identity.

This was another occasion where I consciously invited the Lord to change my heart. I pray for the grace to be a person who, when I am encountered or come to mind, will remind people of the value of knowing and following Jesus Christ. Isaiah gives us this prayer: Yes, for your way and  your judgments, O Lord, we look to you. Your name and your title are the desire of our souls.

May this be the measure of our identity.

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