I am convinced that one of the reasons our leadership program is so successful is because by God’s grace we have been able to help people in two fundamental areas where many a young professional seems to struggle today: identity and purpose.
This is—to me—the most essential question in life: who are you?
Of course, you have an answer, but I am looking for something deeper than your given name. This is the most essential question in life because your answer determines everything else. What is at the heart of this question? Identity! This question is one I needed to suffer through—a lot—before I had the adequate answer. Through those struggles, I realized that not all the money in the world, not a college education, not a career, nor my level of skills, none of it means anything if I don’t know who I am. Some time ago, God gave me the gift of an epiphany: that I was not the master of my universe. That realization sent me in a long trajectory to discover my true identity.
I know that today some of you—influenced by the culture—are tempted to build an identity around things such as sports, your taste in music, cars, motorcycles, traveling, golf, hunting, a particular political party, or your professional career, your country of origin, even your ethnicity. But the truth is that while these things might be personal preferences, aspects of your life, or even part of your identity, none of them are the real you.
So, who are you? Well, at the most basic level you are a human being. A creature, with intellect and will, and dignity above all creatures. And if you are baptized Christian, then you are a child of God. Because of those reasons your life is very valuable. That is who you are, at the very core. That is the real you. The other stuff is superficial, even a distraction from your true identity.
I don’t know your stories, but I hope someone or perhaps a series of events have given you the gift of a Catholic faith. That is your compass! If you follow this blog, I’m guessing you view your faith as such. There are too many 40, 60, and 80-year-olds who have wasted their entire lives without knowing who they are or what they were made for. Let’s endeavor to NOT be those men or women. Furthermore, if you are in the professional world, I invite you to join me in the adventure of becoming a virtuous leader, rooted in your identity as a child of God.
We’ve all heard the paraphrased words, originally in German, by Pope Benedict XVI, given to a group of young people. He said “the world offers you comfort, but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness!” What is this greatness he was referring to? The greatness of a lifelong commitment to building character, based on the search for truth, goodness, and beauty, a lifelong commitment to develop your own character through continued growth in prudence, courage, justice and self-control. These are the foundation that can turn you into a virtuous leader. That’s what you were made for!
Ladies and gentlemen, be careful. Some of you have made a little money and tasted success, and this often pulls you away from your call to greatness, obsessed by things that have absolutely no value. And we don’t just see this among the wealthy. I see it in the barrio, men who work double shifts, only to put on their cars the most expensive rims or wear the most expensive jewelry. Or even worse, I’ve seen people give up a life of hard work and exchange it for the false, easy life that we hear about sang in most “narcocorridos.” Why do they do these things? Because they don’t know who they are. And they don’t know what they were made for.
Many of you come from working families, like myself. And I know how much you and your families have suffered, because life is not easy. I know about the sacrifices that your parents made to get you to where you are. That’s for the ones who had two parents, because often, it’s a single mom or dad, who sacrifices everything, to give you a better future. I know that in our communities, there is a lot of pain and suffering, and there isn’t such a thing as the perfect family.
If you were given the gift of a Catholic faith, you face the prospect of doing something great with your life. To do this, you must never forget who you are. First and foremost, commit to honor the dignity conferred onto you by your Creator and the sacrifice His Son made for you at the cross.
Go on and be a doctor, engineer, or teacher. But that can’t define who you are, that can only be another gift for you to share with others. So, become the best doctor, the best engineer, the best teacher you can be by treating others with compassion, love and respect, because you will recognize in them the inherent dignity of every human being.
The next time somebody asks you about the two most confusing concepts of our times—identity and purpose—I want you to tell them who you are: you are a child of God, and what you were made for: holiness.
Ladies and gentlemen, God is calling us to a dramatic transformation. He is calling us to be saints. And that transformation can start for you today in many ways, most notably through the sacrament of Reconciliation, better known as confession. Do not let that opportunity pass.
“You were not made for comfort; you were made for greatness.” And any greatness is worthless if it does not flow from our true identity in Christ. Viva Cristo Rey!