Identity and Mission

In my ministry as a Spiritual Director, I often pose two key questions: “Who are you?” and “What is your mission (purpose for living)?” Mature discernment regarding one’s identity and mission are important indicators of affective maturity. As a person moves through life stages (infancy, childhood, etc.), there will be many changes in the identity and mission, e.g. student, worker, profession, vocational path such as single, marriage, clergy, religious. There is a belief  in the Roman Catholic tradition (or other Christian faith traditions) that an indelible mark of identity is implanted that marks one as a disciple of Christ.

The Gospel teaches that when Jesus began his public ministry, he began to build the Church by calling his disciples to follow him. The twelve disciples were personally called to leave family behind and follow him. Later, the Gospel relates how many other men and women were called to follow, accompany, or support his mission in various ways and paths. 

If I identify as a disciple of Christ, I am always called to service. It is in my DNA (“you are the image of the invisible God” Col. 1:15). For example, reaching the age of retirement status, I am still called to serve even as my capacity or limits of age will affect my ability to respond. I am very grateful that health and mental capacity still allow me to serve as a Spiritual Director. However, I know that with any change in health, that may decline. Until I die, I am always called to serve. My sister-in-law who is 95 and bedridden with some memory loss has a core identity and mission. When I visit, bringing her communion, I often remind her of her identity and mission, such as offering up her prayers and suffering for her children and grandchildren. She often smiles and seems at peace when she realizes (if only vaguely) her identity (disciple, beloved daughter) and mission as a purpose for living. 

Our core identity as disciples of Christ is nourished whenever we celebrate the Eucharist. “Food for the Journey.” A retired priest who is over 90 and serves still always reminds his listener, “You are Jesus Christ to all you encounter.” All disciples have a mission. To more closely recognize our mission, we need to give priority to prayer in our daily schedule. I give to all my spiritual directees a handout entitled “Disciples of Prayer.” In the preface, it begins with an explanation that in order to live more intentionally as a Catholic, it is important to order our lives in such a way that one cultivates a discipline of prayer. To better grasp and accept my mission for the day, I begin with a series of morning prayer, prayers of praise, protective and deliverance prayer, and prayers for guidance from the Holy Spirit. One of my favorite prayers is the “Secret of Sanctity”: “O, Holy Spirit, soul of my soul, I adore you. Enlighten, guide, strengthen and console me. Tell me what I ought to do and command me to do it. I promise to be submissive to everything that you permit to happen to me. Show me only what is your will.” 

In the book of Genesis we read, “Let us make man in our own image and likeness” (Gen 1:26). The image of God implanted as our core identity and the likeness is realized over time as we seek with the inspiration and power of the Holy Spirit to put on Jesus Christ – “my disciples are those who hear my words and put them into practice.” ( Matt. 7:24). The expression “practicing Catholic” often means those who celebrate the Sunday Eucharist and are sent forth to live the Eucharist. They hear the word and connect the word to their daily life. “Spirituality is the art of being connected in a disconnected world.” I often feel that my days go better when I accept invitations to serve and be connected in prayer to God and others that I encounter along the way. As disciples of Christ, we need to cultivate vigilance being awake like the Scripture passage of the Watchman on the Tower able to recognize the approach of any enemy and any voices which mislead us. 

The Good News (Gospel) gives us confidence as Jesus offers the disciples as servants – the Paraclete – a counselor, a defense attorney. “I will not leave you orphans. I will send you another advocate who will be with you always and remind you of all that I told you.” (see John 14:18–26). As I get older, my memory recall often fails or is slow to respond. So I often pray begging the Lord, Come Holy Spirit, remind me often (sin is often forgetting who I am). I repeat throughout the day invoking” Come Holy Spirit, Enlighten me, Come Holy Spirit empower me, Come Holy Spirit anoint me.” To frequently activate the gifts of the Holy Spirit is to realize the personal gift of “new wine,” source of living water promised by Jesus, and to realize the abundant life here and hereafter. “Rivers of living water will flow from within him” (John 7:38).

Msgr. Ed

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