This past year, while I was in filling in at Our Lady of the Black Hills, Piedmont, Deacon John and Joni Osnes invited me to be part of their Sunday adult faith formation class after Mass. They were studying “The Disciple as Steward” by Sharon Hueckel, which is a six-week, small group study based on the U.S. Bishops’ pastoral letter on stewardship titled, “Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response.”
One of the questions that was asked was, “Who am I?” As we went around the room, the answers to that question went something like this: I am an engineer, I am a mother, I am a dad, and I am a teacher.
Jacque Osnes, a college student, surprised us all when she said, “First, I am a child of God. That is who I am, first and foremost a child of God.”
Wow, what a great answer. I wished I would have come up with that: “First, I am a child of God. That is who I am, first and foremost a child of God.”
The answer to the question of “Who am I?” is not about what we do or even what we possess or own, but the truth is found in answering another question: “Whose we are?”
Jacque was right; first and foremost we are children of God. Through our baptism in Christ we have been adopted as sons and daughters of God the Father; we
become partakers of his divine nature and we are temples of the Holy Spirit (Catechism of the Catholic Church #1265). What defines us a person is the fact that we have been made in the image and likeness of God, and because of that we are called to love, know and serve him.
Fr. Paul Hoesing, in his pamphlet on prayer, Have I Been With You? Personal Prayer For Young Disciples, says, “Our relationship gives us an identity, and our identity gives us a mission. What we do (our mission) flows from our identity (who we are), and who we are begins with our hearts in communion with Jesus.” Fr. Paul is emphasizing three key words in his description of who we are: Relationship — Identity – Mission (RIM).
Relationship — Identity – Mission is rooted in the vine and branches passage in Jn 15:4, “Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me.”
However, we often get this ordering reversed by putting mission first, then identity and lastly relationship. When we put mission first, it is easy to lose our way and our identity because our focus and gaze is not on Christ, but rather on the mission and on ourselves.
When we get this upside down, the mission inevitably takes up all of our time and energy, and in the end we have no time for a personal relationship with Christ. It is much easier and less challenging for us to focus on the mission rather than on our relationship and identity with Jesus.
Let’s face it: being people of prayer is difficult because it requires us to be disciplined and to have a spirit of constancy in our lives when it comes to giving time to building and maintaining a personal intimacy with the Lord.
This is why in our diocesan priority plan prayer is our first core value. Bishop Robert Gruss indicates, “Prayer is listed first
because it provides us a secure foundation” as we read in the story of the wise and foolish builders in Lk 6:46 -49.
Since March, we have been focusing on the second lens of our stewardship initiative lively faith: prayer, study and formation. Both Msgr. Thomas Richter at Pastoral Ministry Days and Jim Beckman at the Stewardship Summit focused on RIM: Relationship — Identity – Mission in their talks. Msgr. Richter describes RIM in the
context of the experience of Jesus’ life:
“Relationship with the Father for 30 years, then at Jesus’ baptism the Father proclaims his Identity, ‘This is my beloved son with whom I am well pleased.’ Then the Spirit sends Jesus on Mission.”
I encourage you to go to our diocesan webpage and listen to both Msgr. Richter’s and Jim Beckman’s talks on lively faith. (Msgr. Richter) http://rapid
resources;and (Jim Beckman) http://rapidcitydiocese.org/stewardship or you can download them to your smart phone as an audio file. (Podcast) https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI , while speaking to a gathering of young people at Westminster Cathedral, sums up the theme of RIM in this way: “This is the message I want to share with you today. I ask you to look into your hearts each day to find the source of all true love. Jesus is always there, quietly waiting for us to be still with him and to hear his voice. Deep within your heart, God is calling you to spend time with him in prayer. But this kind of prayer, real prayer, requires discipline; it requires making time for moments of silence every day. Often it means waiting for the Lord to speak. Even amid the business and stress of our daily lives, we need to make space for silence, because it is in the silence that we find God, and in silence that we discover our true self. And in discovering our true self, we discover the particular vocation which God has given us for building up his church and the redemption of our world.”
With the Advent/Christmas seasons upon us, spend some time in re-examining your relationship with Christ, who first gives us our identity as beloved sons and daughters of the Father and then sends us out on mission through the Holy Spirit to bear abundant fruit in his name.