One would expect after 30, 40, 50, 60 or more years, that we ought to know ourselves. Perhaps that is true in some aspects of our lives. But if we walk through this life with our eyes and mind open, it does not take long to realize that we undergo constant, and sometimes radical, changes on our journey! Some of the changes are self-induced, others are inflicted upon us by circumstances or decisions of the world around us. After half a lifetime or so, most of us have a pretty good idea about what is right or wrong, which things are good for us or which things might be harmful. We are able to make decisions based on acquired knowledge and past experience.
When we are young, full of dreams and expectations, we more often do foolish things than in later years. As youngsters, we often tempt fate. In my own childhood, I remember testing the law of gravity. With an umbrella in hand, I jumped off a building only to find that the umbrella was not enough to hold me, resulting in a not-so-smooth landing. It wouldn’t have mattered a bit what my father would have said to me; I would have tried it anyway!
When we are older, we listen more carefully to our consciences and tend to take the advice of others more readily. I am quite sure that if someone told you not to jump out of an airplane without a parachute, your common sense and experience would tell you that you that the person has given you sound advice. You have indeed learned some lessons along the way; you have acquired wisdom!
When you are very young, you hear a name repeated very often, until you eventually realize that the name belongs to you. Later, you might choose not to hear when you are called by name, for fear of punishment or the assignment of chores. Much later, you might long to hear your name but cannot for you have lost the ability. Even when your sense of hearing is gone, you are given the grace to read the lips of the speaker so that you know you are still being called by name. You have learned; you have acquired wisdom and knowledge!
The ancient Romans coined a phrase “nomen omen” which means “the name is the man”. In other words, the name becomes a sign and a commitment to the duty associated with the one who carries it. In days gone by, the family name reflected the occupation you or your father held (Smith or Shoemaker are obvious examples). If my father’s name is William, I might be given the name Williamson: as in, son of William. The bearer of such family names would wear them proudly and try very hard to live up to the reputation associated with them. So the Roman phrase definitely rings true.
The Lord, too, has said “I have called you by name.” What name is He talking about? Our given name? Our family name? What about if we change our names; will He still know us? Will He still accept us and call us by name? Suppose it has nothing to do with our individual names at all but the one into which we have been baptized; that is CHRISTIAN.
We are not born Christians but become so through the grace of Baptism. Then begins a lengthy and demanding journey. Christianity is the best thing that could ever happen to us, for by Baptism we are sealed into the life of Christ. The very essence of the name Christian is “one who lives in Christ”. Then, what I stated earlier about “the name is the man” is even more true for those of us who call ourselves Christians. Saint Leo the Great once said, “Christians, recognize your dignity!” We ought to be proud to bear this name and not shy away from the duties that are expected of us. How many Christians take this name very lightly? If we believe and trust that we do indeed live in Christ and that Christ lives in us, we must do everything in our power to promote Christianity with our lives. Somewhere I read that if one doesn’t fight for one’s ideals, either the ideals are worthless or the individual is worthless! Now that is a very bold statement. The reason I use it here is to make you aware of your bloodline. We must live it, breathe it and stand up for it; otherwise, we promote nothing and the general public thinks that Christ does not exist! I know that this is strong tobacco, but if you don’t know who you are, how can you ever deal with the onslaught of daily life? How can you deal with troubles, pains, attacks and all the evil that surrounds you? Saint Gregory of Nanzianzus once said, “It is better to be a real Christian without mentioning it than to brag about it without being one!”
This journey of ours never ends. Conversion is an ongoing process and, especially during the trying times in which we now live, we cannot afford to be a Christian by name only, an “honorary member”, so to speak. Today’s world needs to SEE that a Christian lives, talks, walks and behaves differently than the rest of the world. “Be ye therefore merciful as your Heavenly Father is merciful.” Pope Paul VI paraphrased this command of Christ into words which might be shocking to you. “Christianity cannot content itself with mediocre people. It cannot be lived in just any way; either it is lived in fullness or it is betrayed!” Let us, therefore, continuously ask ourselves “What would Jesus do?” Would He lose His identity? Would He fall into despair or anxiety? Don’t you think that He would rather implore the Father’s mercy and seek to do His will? “If God is for us, who can be against?” If we let Him, Christ our Brother works within us constantly, so that we might be rehabilitated. He does not want us to be different, but better. He wants us to become that for which we were created: to be children of God. Knowing that Christ is within you, be assured that He will give you the grace to deal with whatever comes your way. Don’t be selective; face life with confidence, knowing that you are never alone. When difficulties arise know that God will bring good out of every situation, whether or not we recognize it at the time. Don’t be afraid to admit that you cannot carry the load alone – pass it on to Christ. Whatever you cannot carry, He will gladly carry for you! Let us prove our love rather than trying to prove ourselves!
In his second letter to Timothy (Chapter 2, verses 23-26), Saint Paul writes: “Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance, leading them to a knowledge of the truth and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to his will.”
You have, indeed we all have, a priceless treasure in our hearts – Christ Jesus Himself. Let us, therefore, walk in His light. Let us entrust our sorrows and cares to Him who is Mercy Incarnate. Let us see Christ in all those whom we may meet and respect them for the One who lives within. If we are able to live our Christianity, we can look forward to Our Lord’s words: “Well done, good and faithful servant! Whatever you have done to the least of My brethren, you have done unto Me!”