Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Who am I?

This reflection is taken from In His Own Words by Fr. John Cioppa, Maryknoller from Hong Kong. Fr. John just recently celebrated his 5oth anniversary as a priest and during that time has had many positions of leadership in the Society and at present is the superior of the Maryknollers in Hong Kong.

Fr. John joined the Holy Spirit Study Centre in 1988, and since then has become the indispensable administrator, who helps us to run the often-complex daily operations of the Centre. He has done this with tireless devotion, with charm and respect, gaining from the members of the Centre our most sincere affection and gratitude. Fr. John is not only a straightforward and efficient administrator, but also a man who loves beauty and grace. He was behind the renovation of the facilities and offices of the Centre, giving us a nice, well-lit and pleasant place to work everyday. Father John has also been the capable convener of past Church in China conferences. He really deserves our gratitude. "

There are two questions which you and I never cease to ask. Questions that remain buried deep in the heart of every person. One is "Who AM I?"and the other is, "What AM I doing Here?" We may never ask these questions directly of anyone, but in one way or another we are constantly seeking for answers and the answers are what gives meaning to my life.These are living questions; puzzles that are never solved, mysteries that are never dispelled.

The first answer we often come up with is "I am what I do". And this is very real. When I do things and have a little success, I feel good about myself. When I fail or get older and can do little, I feel low or depressed and useless. Young people who have still to begin their careers also feel they have done nothing and likewise get low or depressed. So often our identity depends on what I can do.

We might also say, "I am what other people say about me. "For some people this is most important. When people speak well of me. I can walk around happily and freely. When people start saying negative things about me I begin to feel sad. If I do something well and 10 people congratulate me , but one scorns me, I remember the latter because I have been hurt. If someone says something hurtful in the morning, it can stay with me the whole day and ruin my mood for the day. What people say about me has an enormous affect on who I think I am.

Some might say, "I am what I have." For example, I can say I am Chinese, with kind parents, a university education, good job and healthy. I feel happy and satisfied with myself, but as soon as I lose any part of what I have: my health or job, for instance, I begin to slip into darkness. This happens often with people who have great material possessions: wealth, property, and money. Many people committed suicide in 1929 when the Stock Market crashed.

Quite often a lot of our energy goes into " I am what I do," "I am what others say about me," "I am what I have." When people live that way our lives are repetition of ups and downs. When people speak well of me, when I am successful, when I have a lot, I am excited and happy. But when I fail, and people talk about me behind my back or I lose my friends I slip into depression and am in low spirits.

When Jesus was tempted in the desert, the devil tried to get Jesus to do great things so that people would be convinced of "Who He was." But Jesus already knew who He was. At His baptism by John He already heard His heavenly Father assure Him, "You are my beloved son in whom I am well pleased." That was Jesus' true identity. He didn't have to depend on what He could do , or what people would say or what He possessed. Jesus knew very well that He was the beloved son of the Father.

And that is our true identity also. What we say about Jesus can be said of us. We too are the beloved children of God. He loves us just as much as He loved Jesus. That's what it means to have faith; not to know a lot, but to be truly convinced that God really does love me as His son or daughter with an unconditional, unlimited forgiving love. So when I fail, or am ill, or am bankrupt, or am out of a job, or grow old, or am rejected or hurt, I am not overcome, because I know "Who I Am"- a beloved child of God.

What Fr. John has seen over the years working in Hong Kong is something we also see in Korea. We at times think that we are here only to work and to possess. If this does become the end and be all of our existence, disappointments and frustrations will not be far away. Life is a gift of God and it is to be enjoyed but often we use God and do not enjoy Him and what He has given. Koreans do love to play, to enjoy one another, and be close to nature but with "progress" time becomes money and the simple things of life no longer are important. We are too busy to enjoy just "being", our existence, a situation which is a colossal tragedy.

1 comment:

  1. I liked the "just being our existence"--just getting in touch with the I am of us--as a good way to sum up Fr. John's point that it is not what we can tag on to the I am: I am this or that depending on the nature of my experiences, my possessions or lack of them, the praise or criticism I receive, but it is to truly know the "I am," as instructed in the scriptures: "Be still and know that I am...God." Then the answer to the second question "What am I doing here?" becomes self-evident.