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Wednesday, January 22, 2020

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In truly religious acts we discover who we are in God and who God is in us

In truly religious acts we discover who we are in God and who God is in us

One basic question we humans ask of ourselves is: “Who am I?”

It’s a short but complicated question that takes many years to come up with a truly satisfying answer. As adults we usually start by defining our role in life – I’m a “butcher, baker, or candlestick maker, etc.” Yet our roles in life are not who we are. That’s what we do; it’s not who we are.

Also, we should not define ourselves by our past – good or bad. We are not the sum of our past mistakes, especially those we keep secret. That’s something we did (hopefully we learned something from our mistakes). That’s not who we are. Similarly, we are not defined by our successes. While these are good things, they are part of our doing, not part of our being.

Some questions we should ask of ourselves are: What are my values? Who and what do I love? What excites me? What is special about me?

This basic task of self-discovery will lead us to deeper loving relationships with God, others, and ourselves, and help us to live truly virtuous lives. God’s grace builds on nature; it does not destroy who we are. The Book of Genesis reminds us that God created us in the Divine image and likeness. Since everyone is made in the image of God, then we need to recognize, honor, and respect the image of God in everyone.

We humans began life with our unique divine DNA, an inner force in the center of our being. That Divine Image wants to be fulfilled and show itself. “God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ.” (Eph.: 4-5). This is our True Self.

Jesus revealed and accepted that human and divine are not separate, but one! When we deny this, we deny who we are. For many of us, this seems just too good and too dangerous to be true. Just listen to the daily news or the headlines of our newspapers. They don’t reflect the Divine!

It is the divine part of us that is great enough, deep enough, and gracious enough to fully accept the human part of who we are. If we are merely human, we will tend to reject our embarrassingly limited humanity. Maybe we subconsciously realize that if we recognized our True Self (that is the Holy Spirit within us) if we really believed that we are temples of God, then we would have to live up to this incredible dignity, freedom, and love.

That could be frightening!

St. Paul reminds us, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (1 Cor. 3:16) And “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore, glorify God in your body.” (1 Cor. 6:19-20)

Again, “For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, ‘I will live in them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.’” (2 Cor. 6:16)

Humility leads us to the distinctive character of our True Self. We simultaneously know we are a son or a daughter of God, but we also know that we did not earn it and are not worthy of it. It’s a free gift of God.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God and not the result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9)

All we can do is say “thank you” for making us part of the Divine Family.

The true purpose of religion is to lead us to new experiences of our True Selves. If religious leaders are not doing this, they are abusing us and our religion. Every sacrament, every Bible story, every sermon, every hymn, every bit of ministry and liturgy is for one purpose: to allow us to experience our True Self. In truly religious acts we discover who we are in God and who God is in us. Then we have the grace to live a generous and virtuous life from that Divine Source.