What Does it Mean to “Be Myself”?

“Christ, the final Adam, by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear.” (Gaudium et Spes, 22)

Heinrich Hofmann (1824–1911), “Christ and the Rich Young Man”
Heinrich Hofmann (1824–1911), “Christ and the Rich Young Man” (photo: Public Domain)

In Sunday’s second reading, St. Paul told us that we “are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then also an heir, through God.” This short snippet from Galatians was the focus of a homily by Corpus Christi Parochial Vicar Father Riley Williams (who is being named with permission, and who kindly provided his homily notes for reference) of Sandwich, Massachusetts.

“Just be yourself” were Father Williams’ opening words. He then reminded parishioners to “first reflect on what it means to be myself – on what it means to be human,” and said that we are all “made for Heaven."

However, he asked, “are we living our lives like we are” looking “forward to the life of the world to come” – intentionally aiming to be a saint, in other words – or are we just expecting “simply to live 70 or 80 or 90 years here on Earth, and then die”? 

As a linear, literal thinker who focuses on concrete matters more easily than abstract ones, my initial reaction was to take Father Williams’ words simply as a reminder to not sin. Avoid bad, come closer to God. Done and done, move on, right?

Not quite. What about people who are close to God and rarely sin, such as my mother or fiancée – what value does this homily hold for them?

As I reflected on this question, an answer came to mind: to become fully human, as described by Father Williams, isn’t just about avoiding the bad. It’s also about fully becoming who and what God intends for each one of us.

Trusting in God’s Providence has been a source of serious spiritual struggle for me for more than three years. Trusting in His existence is simply logical, but what about His promises about Grace and Heaven for those who come to Him?

In other words: there is an ultimate “light at the end of the tunnel.” But keeping an eye on that light, which could be minutes or decades away, has been a struggle. That struggle has come through a lack of spiritual satisfaction despite frequently attending daily Mass, and a knee injury that has largely kept me out of the gym and off of the Frisbee field for over 18 months. It’s come from having to at least temporarily abandon a political writing career despite years in the field, and dating difficulties that led to despair about what God wanted from me in terms of that vocation.

I’m also a choleric extrovert who’s spent most of the last three years trying to better understand the emotional, spiritual, and other sensitivities of people. #NotMyStrongPoint

Other forms of spiritual struggle abound. Reflecting for a moment on how Father Williams’ homily applied to my aforementioned mother and fiancée – both overcame difficult childhoods to become adult converts to the faith, and it is easy to see God’s Will reflected in their lives. Yet they are both their own worst critics, frequently finding inadequacies that don’t exist – forgetting that their value is in just being children of God – that their value is in Him, and that’s enough.

Or, as Father Williams put it, recognizing that “in Christ our humanity has been perfected by being united…with divinity.”

For myself, it is perhaps ironic that my concerns about God’s Providence have continued despite improvements in my life in the last eight months. Thanks to the difficult growth while becoming more aware of others’ needs, I’m engaged to a wonderful woman. The knee injury took me away from a vanity about working out – what my chiropractor described as the gym being my “mini-God.” Daily Mass has (finally) opened my mind to lessons from God that I otherwise would have missed, and I recently accepted a job that is very much in the direction I want my career to go.

I like to consider myself logical. How logical is it to lack trust in an eternal Being who knows all things and can do all things, and wants my good at all times?

Father Williams’ closing line – “being the ‘me’ that God calls me to be” – is apt for the struggles of all people, not just the three discussed here. In the end, to paraphrase another priest’s homily from some months ago, God cares far less about what we do and far more about why we do it. All we can do is provide Him with our best – but that’s also all He asks for.