In our own country our Christian identity is certainly debated, yet interestingly, it is also embraced by those who believe it is to their advantage to do so. Pauline Hanson is keen to do so when it is held up against the Muslim immigrant. On the other hand, the so-called ISIS group claims to be Muslim even when committed to its inhumane destructive behaviour. Many Muslims would reject their claim to such identity.
What I am speaking about here is the cultural notions of religion. Societies are developed with religious identity despite not necessarily embracing its ways. As the years pass its potency can easily fade.
Part of the religious Crisis of the Church in our day is that the notion of Christianity has become little more than a cultural label. Life is shaped in such a way that the activities we pursue clarify our identity and fine tune our sense of self meaning for living.
With intent, or by chance, our work life can shape our identity.
Earning money is certainly of importance for all for financial independence. For some their work or career develops a sense of vocation for it captures a personal passion. That passion can expand to a vision for accomplishing some valued outcome that is easily recognised for its good for others.
Annually we celebrate the season of Lent, the forty days of reflection leading to Easter. Today’s reading leads us into the Judean desert where we are invited to reflect upon Jesus own personal journey of discovery and identity formation.
Yes a Jew, a teacher, a friend of sinners and sufferers.
But what of its ultimate goal?
- Turning the rocks into bread, the social worker, activist who could help build the human utopia.
- The extraordinary super human miracle worker that could illustrate his wonder by jumping from tall buildings. A super hero type.
- Already displaying extraordinary human leadership qualities he could develop into a great political leader and unite the world under his authority.
How vital these roles are in building society. The world needs unique people to step up into these types of roles. But why did Jesus refute them for himself?
As he processed each of these possibilities he found a deeper message coming through to him from a deeper realm of his mind. In each case a scriptural truth painted a grander picture for him.
- Man shall not live by bread alone.
- You shall not test the Lord your God.
- You must worship the Lord your God and him only.
Jesus mission was not to fulfil a specific task shaped role in life. His was to be grounded not in activity but in the very nature of his being. It was to display the fullness of human identity. We speak of it as the fulfillment of spiritual identity.
THE MAN FOR ALL PEOPLE
Each of the so-called roles he considered would actually have separated him from others. They would have differentiated him from what others could do. By rejecting them and choosing a spiritually shaped approach, he was embracing an identity that was accessible to all people.
He was living a life that would mirror what each and every human could be. Whether a wonder worker, a politician, a social worker….or any other career or role in life. What he saw was a greater mission to be grounded in the spiritual heart of our Godly identity…The quality of our life.
The call to holiness, built around love and mercy, truth and generosity.
There has become a very glib use of terms for religious identity. Politicians are presently a good example of the misuse and manipulation of its label. Cultural forms of Christian and Muslim identities come to mind. And it is sad to see Jesus example denigrated.
Over the next weeks in this period of pilgrimage toward Easter it would be good for us to find our way of reflecting upon the heart of spiritual identity. How would you describe your spiritual identity?
To emulate the way of Jesus is our challenge.