April 1, 2015
In the United States of America we are driven by work. I would argue that it is the single most important defining characteristic of the modern man. We don’t know who we are unless we are working. Our work defines us and gives us meaning. In a word, our work gives us our identity.
A few articles back, I spoke about our insatiable need for distraction and how it blocks us from silence and hearing God’s voice. Just as distraction blocks us from truly hearing the voice of God, so does work block us from our true identity.
If our work is our identity what happens when our work fails? Imagine if Jesus would have let his work define him. Almost every instance of his miracles, of his teaching or when he drove out demons he was misunderstood. In fact, based on the scriptural account of his life, his work was a failure. But Jesus didn’t rely on his work for his identity. His identity came from his relationship to his Father.
Jesus, like all of us, receives his identity at baptism. The Father looks down on us as he did on his Son and says those beautiful words, “This is my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased!” (Mt 3:17) Through baptism you and I are beloved sons and daughters of the Heavenly Father. In the measure that we know this, we know who we truly are. We are not defined by what we do, but by who we are.
It is important to note that the devil’s first attack on Jesus after His baptism, which inaugurates His public ministry, is on His identity. In the Gospel of Matthew we read that immediately after the baptism, “Jesus was led by the spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.” (Mt 4:1) Many people think that the temptations in the desert were directed towards pleasure, honor and power. This is a mistake! The devil certainly uses enticements of pleasure, honor and power in his temptation, but at the core of these temptations is an attack on Jesus’ identity as being the Beloved Son of the Father. With each of these temptations the devil begins with, “
IF you are the Son of God….” He is trying to get Jesus to doubt his relationship with the Father and His identity as the Father’s Beloved Son.
The devil’s tactics have not changed a bit since the foundation of the created world. He attacks all of God’s beloved sons and daughters the same way. He gets us to believe the lie that we are not sons and daughters of the Father and he tries to tempt us to find our identities elsewhere (i.e. work, human relationships, material goods, money, etc.). Why does he focus on our identity so much? Because the devil knows that if we truly believe that God is our Father and provides for all our needs, then he will lose all power over us, just as he lost all power over Christ. There will be nothing to fear because God is with us no matter what situation we are in. (Is 7:14)
We must continually ask God for the faith to know our true identity and to realize that we are loved not because of what we do, but because of who we are.
(Suggested Scriptural passages: Mt 3:13-17, Mt 4:1-11, Is 62, and Is 7:10-17)
Fr. Waltz is director of vocations for the Bismarck Diocese. His column, Into the Deep, discusses how to hear God’s voice in everyday life