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How to find our true identity

Boston Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley is pictured in a file photo carrying a monstrance during eucharistic adoration in Orlando, Fla. (OSV News photo/Bob Roller)

By Sister Alicia Torres
Who am I?

This question lurks at the core of every human heart. So often the real answer is blurred by responses we so readily grasp after, and yet time and again fail to satisfy. One response in particular, I think, gnaws at so many of us today: “I am important.”

Of course human beings have inherent value. Created in God’s image and likeness, our value is inestimable. Yet, when we focus too much on that value, we miss the big picture that our heart longs to see.

Consider the typical “getting to know you” questions.

“What do you do?”
“Where did you go to school?”
“Where do you live now?”
“What do you do for fun?”

Such questions can fill an awkward silence and help us learn about a person, but they can also help evaluate that person’s place in the social hierarchy.

Last year, I was invited to a networking event. As I waited to check in, the man standing behind me began to make conversation with me. He was kind and eager to meet people and make connections. But once I revealed by my answers to his questions that I wasn’t in the “in crowd,” he politely stepped away from the conversation.

It was a fascinating experience for me. I wasn’t offended and understood how eager the people at the event were to make the most of their experience and make as many connections as possible.

But it raised the question for me: “With whom are we ultimately trying to connect?”

A dear friend of mine was recently describing a piece of art that had really moved him. It was an image of Jesus, sitting in the midst of a schoolroom surrounded by children. Some were close to Jesus, affectionate and intimate, while others were gathered round that inner circle, gazing with desire. Still others were far off, yet not outside the room. What he loved about the artwork was that he could identify with one little boy in particular, and how that child so evidently longed to be near Jesus.

I am important, but that means nothing unless I know I am loved.

The only way to confirm we are loved is if we know we are children of God. Because of this relationship, everything else in our world becomes true, good and beautiful. Our identity in Christ makes our accomplishments meaningful, our relationships enjoyable and our wildest dreams at least fun to think about, if not completely possible!

Our identity as children of God is confirmed and nourished above all in our celebration of the Eucharist. At the moment we make the sign of the cross, not only does the Mass begin, but as I sign myself, I am reminded of my identity — that I am made in the image of God, a trinity of persons bound in a relationship of self-giving love. As the Mass continues, I am drawn into deeper communion with the God who loves me, hearing his word, spoken for me, witnessing his offering, prepared for me at the hands of the priest, and gazing upon his hidden presence in a tiny white host, given, completely, for me.

He gives himself to me, and I, in turn, can give myself to him. In the end, I don’t really want to know if I am important, and neither does anyone else. What I want to know is if I am loved. And if it is true — that love is at the core of my identity — then all truly shall be well.

And what about that big picture? The image that I see in my mind’s eye, and that my heart is drawn to contemplate, is of a little girl smiling, cheerful, with rosy cheeks and a tiny brown teddy bear being held tenderly in the arms of Jesus, her head resting upon his heart. And that little girl is me. And when I can truly see that little girl, I know the answer to the question, “Who am I?” The answer is, “I am loved.”

Sister Alicia Torres is an executive team member for the National Eucharistic Revival, editor of the Heart of the Revival e-newsletter and a member of the Franciscans of the Eucharist of Chicago, a religious community that carries out the mission of the Church through service to the poor, evangelization and teaching.

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