The identity question was one of the areas for discussion during the Affiliate Joint Retreat/Meeting last week. Both for individuals and for a collective group, defining one's essential identity can be illusive.
As individuals we often define ourselves via gender, race, nationality, age, work, geography, economic status and so many other ego identifiers. Of this approach, Rabbi Rami Sharpiro wrote: “… all my suffering is rooted in mistaking my limited and labeled self (male, Jewish, white, American) as my truest Self. I can, with practice, shift my awareness from that limited egoic self to the infinite divine Self that is all Reality.” That seems much closer to our core identity in God.
Similarly, for our collective Maryknoll Affiliate identity, we sometimes begin by describing our organizational structure, historical development or a quantitative listing of chapters and members. While important and good, they don’t really get at the vital spirit of who we are. Our four pillars (Community, Spirituality, Global Vision & Action) along with our connection to the Maryknoll charism get much closer. It’s probably even true to say that whenever with other Maryknollers, there is a felt sense of who we are, of being at home.
Finally, a quote from the Liberation theologian Jon Soprino SJ, might be the one most Maryknollers can relate to. He said, “You ask, ‘Who are you?’…It would be better to ask the crucified people. They know who we are, who I am – an answer that is not far from another traditional reply: God knows us better than we know ourselves.” I sometimes wonder if only those from the North and the economically advantaged have the need to ask identity questions. If the answer (lived and spoken) is inauthentic and heavily colored with ego, the crucified people will spot it right away.