Fr. Bruno Cadoré, former Master of the Order of Preachers, during his canonical visits, usually asked the friars, “What is your identity?” “What distinguishes you, your community, from other religious communities?” “What is uniquely yours that you can offer for God’s people?” In other words, “What factor makes you a Dominican?”
One can simplistically answer that it is the habit that we wear. But obviously, the Master of the Order was looking for a serious answer, one that came from the profound reflection of each member, each community in the Order.
Yet regardless of how each individual or community defined their Dominican identity, one thing was clear: the identity that they came up with had to be so fundamental that, by it, others could recognize that they are Dominican.
Even though this blog post does not aim to discuss the identity of the Dominicans, I would like to use the idea of the fundamentality of identity to talk about the identity of the Christian. Before one is a Dominican, one is, first of all, a Christian. And if identity is so fundamental, so critical for a Dominican, what about a Christian’s identity? Is it not even more essential, more critical?
And if identity is crucial in recognizing one as a Dominican, what is the factor by which others identify us as Christians, as Christ’s followers?
The temptation is to give a superficial answer as one would haphazardly give to the question concerning a Dominican’s identity. And one may come up with something like, “I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income” (cf. Luke 18:12).
Again, here we need a much more profound answer. But we do not have to ponder much to come up with one because our Lord, Jesus Christ, has already given us the answer straight out. In John’s Gospel, before He left his disciples to embark on the journey of his passion and death, our Lord says, “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
Yes, it is love for one another that defines the Christian’s identity. It is love by which others recognize us as Christ’s followers, His disciples.
Yet it is not any kind of love, but the kind with which our Lord loved us. And how did he love us? It was by laying down his life for us, and there is simply no greater love than this. (cf. John 15:13).
In this Lenten season, I would like us to reflect on our Christian identity. If we call ourselves Christians, then we need to have love for one another with the kind of love our Lord has for us. That is our Christian identity. It is that by which others know we are Christ’s disciples.
Br. Martin Maria Nguyen, O.P. | Meet the Student Brothers in Formation HERE