Your True Identity
Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 13, 2015
Once, while traveling through a large city, I stopped at an ATM machine to get some cash. I was in a hurry because I could see the bus that I needed to catch lumbering down the street. When the money was in hand, I didn’t take special precautions, but simply unbuttoned the flap over the breast pocket inside my over coat, slipped in the cash, and re-buttoned the flap, as well as my overcoat. It seemed secure enough to me; in fact, that was the pocket where I kept my passport. I made a mad dash across the street and stepped onto the bus, surprised that there was actually someone behind me, since the doors were already starting to close as I stepped on. The bus jolted to a start just as I grabbed onto a pole to steady myself. The person who boarded behind me did the same. As the bus got under way, he was jostled against me. He smiled an apology. He got off the bus at the very next stop. When I arrived at my destination, and unbuttoned my overcoat to access the cash, I discovered the flap of the breast pocket open and all of my money was gone. However, to my great relief, my passport was still there. The man had taken my money, but thank God, for whatever reason, had left me with my identity. I could prove who I was and I would be able to re-enter the U.S. without struggling to answer the questions underlying today’s Gospel. Who do you say that you are? How can you prove it?
As Mark reports it, Jesus tried to keep His identity “secret.” Clearly, God sent His only Son into this world with the full range of Divine power. These powers were not kept secret but were used freely and openly. Possibly, Jesus decided that it would be best not to identify Himself as the Messiah, but rather, to let people come to that conclusion based on what they heard and by what they saw. It was through His actions and deeds, rather than some sort of “official credential” that the Lord proved His identity as The Son of God.
Those who recognized Him followed, and, eventually, Jesus invited them to assume His identity! There was no need to steal it…rather, Jesus encouraged the disciples to become Him…to be totally and completely identified with Him…and to go out into the world and introduce Him to strangers. The only thing that He asked in exchange…was that they give up their own “passport.”
Through Baptism, we enjoy the same privilege. We are entitled to travel through this world assuming the identity of Jesus Christ. But there is danger in our journey. Identity theft is rampant. Things such as our own personal desires, ambitions, greed, and selfishness are skilled at reaching into our lives, leaving material things but taking our true identity…the identity that was given to us by the Holy Spirit.
If we don’t take careful precautions against these thieves, some day, when we find ourselves at the border between time and eternity, we might well have trouble answering those questions: Who do you say that you are? How can you prove it?