Who are you? Some of us will constantly define ourselves by who we used to be, for good or bad. Some of us still brag about things from long ago — brag about some kind of athletic achievement, or even still tell people our impressive ACT score. Some of us like to name-drop about a famous person we met years ago, or continually talk about the best or highest-paying job we had or some award we got.

Or on the flip-side, some of us can’t forget a mistake we made when we were much younger, or a relationship that failed or the time in our lives when we were mistreating a parent or getting fired from a job. I guess living in the past is something many of us do without even thinking. But is that really who we are?

Do you sometimes imagine the “real” you is on the horizon somewhere, down the road, in the future? That’s me sometimes. I often envision the day when I will be kinder and more loving and more at peace and more joyful and more secure with my place in this world. It’s as if I’m saying that the guy I am now is not the real me. The real me is the person I will be at some point in the future, at the point when I will fully buy into what God is selling — the point in my life when I will give my all toward trying to be the very best that I can be. Who are you? Who am I?

In The Book of Exodus we hear one of the most profound passages in sacred scripture. At the heart of the conversation between God and Moses are a few words — simple words that say so much. When Moses urges God to reveal his name to him, God replies, “I am who am.”

I AM. Now, we might think that it just shows God simply being evasive, that God is essentially saying, “I’m not going to tell you.” There might be a little of that going on — since, in the ancient world, knowing someone’s name meant that someone had a kind of control or power over the other. But it seems to be much more than that. In declaring himself as “I AM” God is revealing to Moses the profound truth that God is an eternally present reality. God doesn’t have a past or a future. God simply IS. Imagine that!

If God has no past and future, if God is simply in the now, maybe we should try to live in the light of that reality too. Maybe the past is something we can learn from, but shouldn’t dwell on. Maybe the future is something we absolutely can look forward to and plan for and keep our sights on, but not if it means that we keep putting off and putting off and putting off the changes we need to make today.

Lent is a perfect opportunity to firmly ground ourselves in the present, a time to sincerely take a deep and honest look at who we are at this very moment, in this time and place. and if the person we think we should be is either someone we were in the past, or someone we can take our time becoming, then we can be sure that we will never be that person.

Who am I? Who are you? Not who were you long ago? Not who will you be at some point far in the future? Rather, who are we, honestly — right now? Who is the real you and the real me? God wants us to be that person this very day. and if you’re not sure you believe you can be that person, God says,“I am.”

Deacon Stuart Neslin is a Parish Deacon and Administrator at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Rome.

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