by Tom Carani
“Remember who you are.” It’s my grandpa’s favorite one-liner, and it’s always the last thing he says to me when I leave family gatherings. When he says it to me, grips my hand tightly and looks me in the eye, a goofy grin on his face and the deepest integrity glinting in his eyes. “Remember who you are.” His gaze reminds me that when I go out into the world, I don’t go alone. I bring my family’s reputation, identity, and love along with me. It’s a reminder to be a person of integrity, to live my life knowing that I belong to someone and something greater than myself. I usually laugh it off and make some remark, “Alright, Papa. I always remember!” But when I think about his catchphrase and reflect on it in prayer, its depth is easily obvious to me.
In the gospel story of the Transfiguration (Mark 9:2-10), we witness an image of the Divine breaking into the everyday and blinding us with the truth that our primary identity which we carry into the world is that we are God’s beloved daughters and sons, and our destiny is eternal glory. At the moment of the Transfiguration, Jesus is revealed to his disciples again as God’s beloved Son, the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets (that’s part of the reason Elijah and Moses show up in this passage). Since we share in Christ’s Sonship through baptism and faith, we too are beloved Sons and Daughters.
In one of my favorite spiritual books, Life of the Beloved, Fr. Henri Nouwen writes about recognizing our “inner truth” as a beloved son or daughter of God. He writes about the goal of the active spiritual life:
“…God is a Lover who wants to be loved. The one who created us is waiting for our response to the love that gave us our being. God not only says: “You are my Beloved.” God also asks: “Do you love me?” and offers us countless chances to say “Yes.” That is the spiritual life: the chance to say “Yes” to our inner truth.”
In the times that we’re drawn away from God, who is Love, we choose to reject our Beloved-ness and choose to isolate ourselves from God, sometimes feeling that we’re irreparably broken and unable to be forgiven. This is the lie of sin, the trap of the Evil One: That we are alone, and nothing and no one can save us from ourselves.
Friends, the truth is that we are not so broken that the mercy and love of God cannot heal us. In fact, the Transfiguration account reminds me that despite our brokenness, God still has our glory in mind. Even though we’re broken, God has come into the world to remind us that our destiny is still eternal life with the Trinity. This was Jesus’s mission! Encouraging sinners to repent, leave everything behind, believe, and follow him. There is pain in following Jesus. There is pain in leaving behind our self-constructed lives as we know them for something unknown and planned by God. But I can attest, and so can the generations of Catholics before me, that a life of discipleship is worthwhile. More than I can describe.
As the Easter season continues, let’s remember who we really are. We are an Easter people. We are not children of the world or people without a future. We are chosen and beloved daughters and sons of God, and it is our joyful task to open ourselves to God’s transforming love and follow Jesus Christ so that we might appear in glory with Him at the end of time.
Alternate version originally published in Catholic Volunteer Network’s Lenten Reflections 2016.