Saturday, March 16, 2013

Am I the Authentic Person I am meant to be?

Recently, one of our diplomats was stopped by a policeman for drunken driving, and the individual in anger said to the policeman: Do you know who I am? Writing in a pastoral bulletin, the priest recalled a time when such responses were not rare. He has never experienced this kind of talk but has heard of persons using their position in society to crudely put down others.

The priest from his time in the seminary has been interested in the nature of personal identity: What does a person consider himself to be? What is he or she conscious of? Who am I?  What is a Christian?  What is a priest? Our diplomat, by his remark, was showing, says the priest, that he was not conscious of his true identity.

A diplomat residing in the country to which he is sent is expected to represent his mother country with prudence and discretion. By driving under the influence of liquor, he not only forgot the need to behave responsibly, as expected from someone in his position, but he attempted to use his position to escape the legitimate penalty of breaking a law of the country.

The priest remembers the words heard in a recent liturgy, from Jeremiah: "Teaching will not perish for want of a priest, nor will there be a lack of wise men to give counsel, or prophets to proclaim the word." These words of those who were plotting against Jeremiah made an impression on the writer. Predominating nowadays in those who  have a faith life is peace of mind instead of liberation and salvation. He wonders about his own motivation.

Repentance is not a place we want to remain in; leaving it behind we must return, he says, to our Lord. The priest wonders whether his life is filled with speaking flowery words and encouraging vague actions to those who are feeling discomfit and are anxious to hear such words.  Is he at times uttering words like a false prophet? he wonders.

Lent is a time to look at the unwise  choices we have made and determine to rectify our relationship with our Lord. We do not ask the kind of question the diplomat asked, but instead ask ourselves, who am I? During this Lent, the priest wants to make sure that he is in touch with the real person that he was meant to be.

The recent election of Pope Francis has already revealed many signs of the kind of person our next pope is and will continue to be. We will gradually see how this translates into the words and actions of his pontificate. Hopefully, the criticisms of the way he acted in the past, in very serious circumstances, will not detract from the current and forthcoming words and actions of the Pope, preventing us from seeing him as the truly authentic person he appears to be, and we all wish to be.