If you want to get to the heart of the matter, or build relationships, it is probably best to ask a series of open questions: who, what, when, how, where and, why.
Being ordained priest, as I was last Saturday, prompted a review of self, using the ‘open question’ method.
So ‘who am I?’ Well like you my primary identity,is as a child of God. Before all else I am a human being made in God’s image, and this is great news. The implications of this are enormous. God, as my creator and parent, deserves my love and praise. Because, I am the created and, not the creator, humility must surely be my orientation (so frequently the reverse is true and pride, the ‘cardinal sin’ wins).
‘What am I?’ Stripping all away I am first a partner (to my wife), secondly a parent and, thirdly a priest. These three describe the human relationships that allow me to fulfil my status as a child of God, in relationship with others. The first two of these ontological relationships are recognised legally – I have bits of paper to prove it! In my case all three have also been recognised liturgically and sacramentally, though Holy Matrimony, through baptism (both my own and my children’s) and ,through ordination. Liturgy and sacraments, mystically, align the ‘who’ with the ‘what.’ Liturgy and sacraments have the effect of bringing something of heaven down to earth. In this way they help fulfil the part of the Lord’s Prayer where we ask for the coming of the ‘kingdom on earth as in heaven.’ Liturgy and sacraments are God’s transformational gift to the church; I feel this very strongly!
When? Well always! I can’t stop being a child of God, even at my most prodigal. I can’t take a respite from marriage, parenthood or priesthood, simply because these three describe what I am, or how I stand (functionally and ontologically) before God. Even on days when I don’t feel much or a partner, parent or priest the bottom line is that I am.
How refers to the way I carry myself, or allow myself to be carried as child of God, partner, parent and priest. Part of our calling, maybe the entirety of our calling, is to be transformed into the very image of God. We are asked to be the very image of God’s radical all inclusive love in and for the world; nothing more and nothing less. All that is required is openness and humility!
Where? Wherever we are led. Sometimes the gospel stories depicting Jesus telling those who he encountered to leave all behind and follow Him, on other occasions he commanded beneficiaries of his healing grace to stay put. We need to carefully, prayerfully, discern where God is calling us to serve as His image in the world.
Why? Here I run out of answers and simply answer, as I used to my daughters when they were young, BECAUSE! (But, perhaps the answer is that He loves us and desires nothing more than to bring us fully into line with His plans for the salvation of the world?)