Several months ago I received the June issue of Presence in which William Barry, SJ, retold the following story about the ending of homily given by John Kerdiejus:
At the end of the homily John neatly summed it all up with a saying he heard from an old gentleman living in the Deep South: “You gotta be who you is, and not who you ain’t!” he said, letting out a deepling rumbling laugh. “Because if you ain’t who you is, then you is who you ain’t. and that ain’t good.”
Now ain’t that good ‘ol Southern Wisdom?
We are so often “who we ain’t” that it takes a lot of discovering Who-We-Is to really be we. That’s a discover worth making. Discover. What a wonderful word that helps us get to Who-We-Is. To “dis-cover” something or someone means that we take off our coats, undo the ties, unbutton the jackets, slip off our shirts, throw back the covers, push off the blankets, peel back the layers, , and quite frankly, go more and more into
un-covery. We get naked. In The Naked Now by Richard Rohr, we are reminded again and again how important it is to undo things and thoughts and thus dis-cover ourselves by “un-saying” and “un-knowing.” We discover and uncover by setting aside our usual habits of judging, preferring, choosing, deciding, determining, and hanging on to our security blankets. All that we think necessary, we throw aside so that our True Selves stand as naked as newly born babies before our wondering eyes.
So “Who-Is-You”? There are many ways to find out who you is not and who you is. That discovery is radically simple because it doesn’t take knowing in any traditional sense—that of accumulating knowledge, opinions, viewpoints, and arguments. At one point Rohr outrageiously says, “We already know far more than Jesus or Buddha ever knew, but the great difference is that they knew what they did know from a different level and in a different way.” That sounds outrageous, but Rohr is simply– “roaringly”—going out his way to jolt us out of our “covers, ” our inherited “knowledge, ” our thought-produced and often false security blankets. He invites us to break out of the hard shells of our cultural and sometimes phony and self-justifying religious and higher educations and unknowingly uncover the naked within. That unknowing is always newly birthed (and naked), living in unknowing just like the way babies live and breath. Naked, we live at every moment the New Life, the life that breathes in the air of grace, the life that sleeps in the arms of God, the life that no long requires a dualist, smarty-pants mind that judges, rationalizes, and allows complacency through certitude.
Who is You? Get naked and find out.