Finding Our Identity
2nd Sunday after Easter
It’s very important to know who we
are. There’s a need that springs from the depths of our human
nature that begs us to explore ourselves and find out not only what
makes us tick, but what is the actual essence of our personality.
This is nothing to do with the utter nonsense that drools from the
mouth of our more progressive brethren. Gender identity is
nothing to do with this exploration of our inner self. We grow
up knowing quite well whether we’re male or female, and any attempt
to alter the nature that God gave us is by definition unnatural, and
even blasphemous. Nevertheless, as we grow in self-awareness,
we do need to recognize what our own nature is beyond its obvious
and scientific boundaries.
Our personality, by and large, is what
it is. We can’t change who we are. But in recognizing
our personality with its own individual faults and virtues, hopes
and fears, sense of humor, abilities and energies, we are
able to use this knowledge to channel our behavior into a lifestyle
that is pleasing to God. Am I nurturing and loving? Then
I should do what comes naturally, by being a good parent, raising
children for God and taking care of my family. Am I the
studious and intellectual type? In that case, I should learn
to know God better and apply my knowledge to make the world a better
place. Am I physically strong, a hard worker? Then I
should provide for my family and help my neighbor when called upon.
There is an infinite number of personalities. We are all
unique, and God loves us for who and what we are. It’s up to
us, on the other hand, to channel our behavior so that it pleases
God. We can’t help who we are, but we can help how we
act. We must work with the tools God gave us so that we can
return our own gift of love to him.
On this Good Shepherd Sunday, we have
the chance to make at least one very basic determination about our
personality. If the Lord is my Shepherd, then I must follow.
But what kind of animal follows a shepherd? He’s followed
actually by two species of animal, both of which he feeds and takes
care of. There are, of course, the sheep. Today’s sermon
focuses on us as sheep, passively following the Good Shepherd,
blindly obeying his commands because of the faith and trust they
have in him. But there’s another animal you’ll see in the
sheepfold, one that we sometimes forget about. That’s the
The sheepdog is just as loyal to the
shepherd as the sheep. But he’s a different kind of animal
altogether. He actively helps the shepherd to guard the
livestock, barking out warnings to the him when the sheep are in
danger. The sheepdog will even defend the sheep when they’re
under threat. And in normal times, when things are going well,
the sheepdog moves quietly but rapidly around the sheep, herding
them in, making sure they’re all going in the right direction and
not wandering off.
If we can find it within ourselves, we
need to identify more with the sheepdog than the sheep.
Especially today, when our actual shepherds have gone missing in
action and left both sheep and sheepdogs to the mercy of the wolves.
Priests, parents, teachers, whoever we are, we find ourselves more
and more in this role of sheepdog, warning our children, our
employees, our students, our parishioners, of the increasing dangers
the world poses. We can no longer content ourselves with being
mere sheep—circumstances have determined that we take on the extra
duties of the sheepdog, if it’s at all within the abilities of our
personality to do so.