Who Are You?
This is a question we rarely think about but often answer. My name is Fr Athanasios. I’m a priest. I can list a thousand answers to this question and never get to the root of who I truly am. I am more than the sum of my parts, as the saying goes. What matters is I am a child of God.
If you haven’t already done so today, please read today’s Epistle lesson from Saint Peter. I know it is a bit long, but it helps to make my point today.
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the exiles of the Dispersion in Pontos, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, chosen and destined by God the Father and sanctified by the Spirit for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and to an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Without having known him you love him; though you do not now see him you believe in him and rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy. As the outcome of your faith you obtain the salvation of your souls.
The prophets who prophesied of the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired about this salvation; they inquired what person or time was indicated by the Spirit of Christ within them when predicting the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glory. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things which have now been announced to you by those who preached the good news to you through the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look. Therefore gird up your minds, be sober, set your hope fully upon the grace that is coming to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” And if you invoke as Father him who judges each one impartially according to his deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile. You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your fathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was destined before the foundation of the world but was made manifest at the end of the times for your sake. Through him you have confidence in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere love of the brethren, love one another earnestly from the heart. You have been born anew, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord abides for ever.” That word is the good news which was preached to you. So put away all malice and all guile and insincerity and envy and all slander. Like newborn babes, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation; for you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.
Come to him, to that living stone, rejected by men but in God’s sight chosen and precious; and like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and he who believes in him will not be put to shame.” To you therefore who believe, he is precious, but for those who do not believe, “The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner,” and “A stone that will make men stumble, a rock that will make them fall”; for they stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were no people but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy but now you have received mercy.
1st Peter 1.1-25, 2.1-10
While Saint Peter is writing to the Christians in the dispersion, he is also writing to us. So long as we live on the Earth we are living in the dispersion. When we were baptized, we became citizens of paradise and children of God. That has practical and spiritual ramifications. Saint Peter reminds us that God called us to be holy.
When was the last time you answered today’s question by saying, “I am an Orthodox Christian,” or simple that you are Christian? My experience is we don’t answer that way because we know our behavior doesn’t reflect who we are. If we tell people we are teachers, so long as we teach, we are living up to ‘who’ we are.
We are more than just our professions, ethnic groups, social class, or even our gender. We are children of God. In our calling to live holy lives, we are challenged by God to leave the sinful desires of the Earth behind and long for life in heaven. We received our freedom from slavery to the passions. We received our citizenship in heaven.
These are all great blessings, but we ignore them day to day. We forget we are living in the dispersion rather than in our true home in heaven. We may even have given up hope that God has promised to rescue us from our situation. Nonetheless, God has not forgotten us. We have forgotten Him.
As we prepare to celebrate the Feast of Transfiguration and the Light of Christ, I invite you to consider the question again. Who are you? You are a child of God. Now start acting like one.