Each and every person has an identity. We may find our identity inherited from family or faith, or both. Christians believe that our identity is sacred because each of us is made in God’s image and given gifts and a purpose in the world. Yet even beyond the claims of faith, identity should be held and treated as sacred. While we may think of identity as a human trait, identity is not limited to the identity of people. Places and cities also have identities—such as Jerusalem, a city with a unique and sacred identity.
5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
Our loving God created us with much intention and care. God knows us all by name and has a mission for each one of us. Our duty is to listen to his kind voice and strive to live in ways shaped by God’s purpose for us.
The prophet Jeremiah offers an extraordinary example of God’s care. Jeremiah declares that he obtained the identity of holiness even before he left his mother’s womb. Yet he also acted, responding to God’s call; because God’s justice allows all to choose. Jeremiah listened to God’s divine voice in his life and followed this call, even when it was difficult. Jeremiah’s sacred identity, and his willingness to embrace and embody this identity, made him a prophet who spread the word of the Lord all over the world. John the Baptist, Peter, and many others had a similar life story.
Not all of us are called to be prophets or preachers, but all of us are called. God gives us a sacred identity and a particular purpose. These days, with all the noise around us, we must find time to calm down and think deeply to discern God’s voice and to realize his plan so that we may respond according to God’s goodwill for us and for our neighbours.
Yet sacred identity is not limited to individual people or to human beings. All around the world, there exist places that are set apart and recognized as special—as sacred, with a purpose. Jerusalem is a clear example of this. As the heart of the Holy Land, the city of Jerusalem is a place of prayer for three major world religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. This multi-faith identity is unique. Because of its holiness, many dream of visiting this city. Indeed, the city is often filled with religious pilgrims from all over the world, lifting their prayers to God in many different languages.
Yet the sacredness of Jerusalem is not offered equally to all. While visitors from other nations travel freely in Jerusalem, the holy city is surrounded by a separation wall limiting or preventing Palestinians from entering. Christians and Muslims who have lived in the Holy Land their whole lives and for many generations claim an identity rooted in this land and its sacred identity—yet too many are not allowed to travel the short distance to Jerusalem to offer their worship. Some treat Palestinian identity as a suspicious identity and in some cases, Palestinian identity is denied and delegitimized as “not a real identity.” Yet, with the prophet Jeremiah, we may proclaim that Palestinian identity is also sacred! And the identity of Jerusalem as equally sacred to Jews, Christians, and Muslims must be protected.
Our human fingerprints bear witness to the truth that each of us is unique in God’s eyes. God loves and takes care of every person as if that person were the only one on earth. All people are called to take pride in our God-given identity and work to protect our neighbours’ sacred identity. In this effort, we will travel the path of justice, peace, and love.
- Why do you think identity is sacred?
- Do you believe that places have unique identities? What makes a particular place sacred?
Our living and holy God, we thank you for your great love for us, for holding us in your heart and creating us with a calling and purpose. We ask you to help us express our Christian identity with pride and be an example of your love on this earth. Be with us always, now and forever. Amen.