Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Who Am I?

I greatly enjoy the music from the film version of the musical Les Misérables. It is beautiful, touching upon Christian themes. It is a musical that could never have come out of a country that had never been touched by the Gospel, surprisingly since it manages to eliminate the revolutionary drift of Hugo's novel, even though France is highly secular today.

"Who am I?" is a question that each of us must ask, at least once in our lives, if not more. It is fundamental to our existence. We are the only creatures that can communicate verbally. We are the only animals that express love and build relationships for reasons that are not  purely biological and utilitarian.  Why?

I think the first answer is this: We are creatures in the image and likeness of God. But if God is pure goodness, then why is the human race fractured by evil?

This question was asked of the Holy Father, Pope Francis in one of the big interviews this past summer or fall: "Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?" He shot back, "A sinner." So simple, yet so profound.

That is the next answer. I have done wrong, I can destroy infinitely but as a finite creature I can only do so much (really, so little) to create, to restore to the Lord. God condescended in His mercy to reconcile the world to Himself so that we might be freed from the bonds of sin and slavery.

In the film, granted, Valjean is referring to his identity in society as he has been living under a false name. On the other hand, Valjean does sing something rather interesting: he did wrong but the Bishop gave to him, thus he sings, "My soul belongs to God..." If only each of us could recognize that our souls belong to the merciful God. Oh, and if only we had the courage to right wrongs when we have the power to do so, even at the cost of everything.

So who am I? My name does not reveal my essence, but it does reveal qualities of oneself. I am Matthew James Patrick Roth, a sinner in need of mercy. I laugh whenever someone asks if I'm a practicing Catholic, because I'm a pretty miserable one at that. If a priest were to address me at Holy Communion-as I have heard has been done before- and say, "the Body of Christ, you miserable wretch," I wouldn't be able to argue against it.

Now humility isn't just deprecating yourself. It's recognizing your proper place...and right now, this is my proper place...so don't feel as if I'm just making this up under false and prideful pretenses. :)

Matthew was chosen out of mercy (see our Holy Father's motto) and wrote a Gospel. James and his brother were named the sons of thunder by Our Lord, and I find that my personality matches that of those Apostles. Patrick of course spread the Faith to Ireland. Hmm. Interesting. St. Josemaria Escriva would be proud, I think, since I know I'm not supposed to be a priest or a religious brother. The call to holiness and to spread the Faith is universal, taking different forms for different vocations of course.

I personally find that this question is intimately related to making the act of Faith. Realizing that one is a sinner and a creature created imago Dei means that your existence is outside of yourself. It is not Cogito, ergo sum. It is rather, "I believe in You, Jesus of Nazareth, as the meaning-logos-of the world and of my life."

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