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Shared Identity

The Franciscan Way

Shared Identity
Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Francis spent much of his time praying in solitude in nature. He practiced contemplation, or “a long loving look at the real,” which allowed him to see in a new way. Seeing from a pair of glasses beyond our own is what I call “participative seeing.” This is the new self that can say excitedly with Paul, “I live no longer, not ‘I’ but it is Christ now living in me” (Galatians 2:20). In the truest sense, I am that which I am seeking. This primal communion communicates spaciousness, joy, and a quiet contentment. It is not anxious, because the essential gap between me and everything else has already been overcome. I am at home in a sacred and benevolent universe, and I do not need to prove myself to anybody, nor do I need to be “right,” nor do others have to agree with me.

A mature believer, of course, knows that it is impossible not to be connected to the Source, or to be “on the Vine,” as Jesus says. But most people are not consciously there yet. They are not “saved” from themselves, which is the only thing we really need to be saved from. They do not yet live out of their objective, totally given, and unearned identity, “hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). This is what saints like Francis and Clare allowed, enjoyed, and “fell into.” It is always a falling! For most of us, our own deepest identity is still well hidden from us. We are all “Sleeping Beauty” waiting for the redemptive kiss. Religion’s primary and irreplaceable job is to bring this foundational truth of our shared identity in God to full and grateful consciousness. This is the only true meaning of holiness.

The irony is that this “holiness” is actually our “first nature”; yet we made it into such a contest that it did not even become most people’s “second nature.” This core identity in Christ was made into a worthiness contest at which almost no one wins and so most do not even try or give up early. Francis and Clare totally undermined this contest by rejoicing in their ordinariness and seeming unworthiness—which I believe is the core freedom of the Gospel itself, the ultimate coup d’etat of the soul. Now losers are the real winners, and that includes just about everybody.

Gateway to Silence:
“I am who I am in the eyes of God, nothing more and nothing less.” —Francis of Assisi

Reference:
Adapted from Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Saint Francis of Assisi, pp. 65-67

Image credit: Legend of St Francis: 5. Renunciation of Worldly Goods (detail fresco), 1297-99, Giotto di Bondone, Upper Church, San Francesco, Assisi

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