The Apostolate of the Laity

Waxing philosophical in communion with one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.

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Location: Portland, Oregon, United States

I am just a sinner who holds fast to the notion that every human being on the planet is the result of a thought of God.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Identity Theft

You are great, O Lord, and greatly to be praised: great is your power and your wisdom is without measure. And man, so small a part of your creation, wants to praise you: this man, though clothed with mortality and bearing the evidence of sin and the proof that you withstand the proud. Despite everything, man, though but a small a part of your creation, wants to praise you. You yourself encourage him to delight in your praise, for you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.
St. Augustin

The human experience seems to hold in store for nearly everyone a period of time where one ponders the questions, "Why am I here, and what is my purpose?" These complex questions come with remarkably simple answers. One exists because out of love God spoke one into creation, and one's purpose primarily becomes a lifelong attempt to love his Creator with all of one's very being.

It tests one's faith to embrace this. Surely there must be more? But what? And with those two questions firmly in hand, man embarks upon a fruitless journey to find himself. His identity as a child of God simply does not cut it. Though his identity has been clearly stamped into his heart, his human intellect still falls prey to the serpent's pick up line in the Garden of Eden, " will be like God." In a certain sense, sin could be defined as a foolhardy attempt to change one's identity from a child of God to a creator of self.

Modern living includes a good deal of caution in protecting one's identity from thieves who would like nothing more than to rob a bank or department store from the comfort of their laptop computer by using someone else's vital credit data. As a result most folks have learned to become very careful of who gets to know what in this regard. Our culture now communicates via a series of passwords and PINs and security verification questions such as "What is the name of your favorite pet?"

How interesting that so much less care gets employed to protect one's true identity as a child of God. In point of fact, man readily gives this identity away in exchange for a substitute. The father of modern rationalism, René Descartes, coined the phrase "I think therefore I am," back in the early 1600s, and modern man has flocked to this notion that he some how has a say in his very existence. Oh sure, he might concede that God may have done the heavy lifting to get things started, but ultimately man remains the master of his domain.

At the other extreme sits the one who sees God as the tyrant searching for an opportunity to damn one to Hell. Fear becomes the primary motivator for this person who genuinely wants to love his creator but struggles with exactly how to do that when this deity might very well judge one as forever unfit for Paradise. One's identity as a child of God gets pilfered by one's fear of eternal consequence. Some how the fact that the word "love" is used over 800 times in sacred scripture compared to the dozen or so times hell is referenced gets lost, and the loving Father's identity gets replaced by a sad counterfeit.

And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we know and believe the love God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. In this is love perfected with us, that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because he first loved us.
1 John (RSV) 14-19

Love defines humanity's identity; a love that radiates out. Finding oneself in the modern sense remains an exercise in chasing one's shadow. Only when man accepts the proposition of Augustin that the heart must rest in his loving Father does he truly come to know his true identity. And with that knowledge, one's purpose in life shifts to one of service to God and neighbor with little regard to twenty-first century's quest for self-fulfillment.


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