We continue our series this week on ten benefits of faith to our mental health.
The second and related resource of our faith is that it declares us to be someone, helping us understand ourselves in relation to another. Our encounter with Christ reveals who we are and confers an identity as beloved children of God. This frees us from the anxiety of trying to understand ourselves only in relation to ourselves.
According to St Bonaventure: ‘I know myself better in God than in myself’ (Hexaemeron, 12, 9). For St Catherine of Siena, we cannot be our own interpreters for ‘we can see neither our own dignity nor the defects which spoil the beauty of our soul, unless we look at ourselves in the peaceful sea of God’s being in which are imaged’ (‘Look at Yourself in the Water’ in M. O’Driscoll, ed., Catherine of Siena: Passion for the Truth; Compassion for Humanity. Selected Spiritual Writings, 36).
The Second Vatican Council taught that ‘it is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of humanity truly becomes clear’ (Gaudium et Spes, 22). In a direct challenge to modern attempts to define ourselves in isolation from the Creator, Pope Benedict XVI taught that ‘without God, man neither knows which way to go, nor even understands who he is’ (Caritas in Veritate, 78).
The Gospel frees us from the burden of being self-referential and the confusion of not knowing who we are, where we have come from or where we are going. For the person of faith, everything unfolds along the journey of life that we walk as fellow pilgrims, empowered with the fundamental truth of our identity as God’s beloved children, brothers and sisters in Christ and destined to share eternal life with him.
Part 3 next week...