Fr. Richard Rohr, in his book Falling Upward, The Spirituality for the Second Half of Life, writes: “We all seen to suffer from a tragic case of mistaken identity. Life is a matter of becoming fully and consciously who we already are, but it is a self that we largely do not know. It is as though we are all suffering from a giant case of amnesia.”
If you are a devotee of ‘the Lion King’ –you will know the scene where the now nearly grown Simba has just had a fight with his girlfriend over whether he should return to the Pride Lands of his birth. Confused and hurt, he finds some solitude along the edge of a lake. Looking at his reflection, he now sees himself as a full grown Lion, which surprises him a bit. As he continues to gaze into the reflection of the stars in the lake, they reform, into the image of his father, Mufasa. Then comes the simple admonition from the spirit of his father: “Remember who you are.” “Remember who you are.”
I wonder if that admonition is also a great way to enter into the heart of the feast we celebrate today – that of the Holy Trinity? So many of the great stories of our western and eastern traditions, then and now, all hinge around the fact of a prince or princess, a noble or a daughter or a son of god, not knowing who they are. They have to grow up to fathom their own identity. And the plot of these hero/heroine stories revolves around the quest to uncover what is already there all the time.
Fr. Rohr says uncovering that deepest identity in God is precisely THE JOURNEY of the second half of life – to remember who we are, the divine nature that is our deepest and truest self. The Rite of Baptism tries to root us in that identity with these words: “I baptize you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” Learning who we are deepest down is the goal of the Christian life. But too often, we stumble through life, unaware of or intentionally denying who we are. A hurt, a loss, an experience of shame, a time when we questioned the presence of God – all of that can be the cause of our spiritual amnesia.
In the Lion King, it is the lies that Scar told Simba about his ‘causing’ the death of his father, that results in his spiritual amnesia, his burying his truest identity, his deepest down knowing of who he is. Like many of us, he has chosen to believe the lie instead of living into the truth of his birthright. “Remember who you are,” comes the command. And remember he does. That remembering, that tapping into the deepest truth about who he is sets his feet on a journey back to his homeland, back to the task that was his to perform, his to do. And you know the rest of the story. Confronting his own demons and his evil uncle, he restores the balance and completes the circle of life.
So, how might you and I “remember” who we are? Is there a cure for the spiritual amnesia that keeps our hearts small and our journeys timid?
1) Simplest way – change the desktop background on your computer to an image from the Lion King – and let be a visual reminder of the grace and gift God put into your heart.
2) Mean the sign of the cross that we do so automatically: In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. This food I am blessing, this activity I am beginning, this moment I am present to, this worship I am entering into, let me do it in accord with who I am.
3) Make a post-it note with that phrase: “Remember who you are” and put it where you will see it. Remember that I am made in the divine image –Father, Son and Spirit. And all that the Father does to create life is mine to do. All that the Son does to redeem life, is mine to do. All that the Spirit does to sanctify life, is mine to do.
4) Finally, pray with this one amazing line that St. Paul tells us in our reading from Romans: “the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” More than any words or definitions we could use to describe the Trinity, our experience of God is just that – an experience of love itself being poured into our hearts. Pray with that line until you believe it.
Do you have spiritual amnesia? Then, hear again, who you are and remember. We are those in whom the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit resides.