Who Are You – Person or Individual?

30 Aug


Matthew 16

 24 Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. 26For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?

In our Gospel reading, Matthew continues to disturb and disrupt the comfortable and the status quo. Not just the materially comfortable, but those who see themselves as spiritually comfortable. Matthew is pointing the finger at those in the synagogue. Jesus is pointing his finger at Matthew and the disciples. And at us.

Do not become comfortable and self-assured you have it all together, that the stories you have heard and the way you read or listen to the prophets will keep you safe. In modern terms, be careful how you worship your tradition and your interpretation of scripture, especially how you pride yourself on so doing. Your salvation is not solely yours, nor can you secure it in any way.

In fact, you must deny it, give it up in favour of saying yes to another, someone un-like you who has been excluded, marginalised, less than; those who were and are embodied in the crucified and resurrected body of Christ. Those who society says you are to fear. You do not know why you fear them. You just do. It’s there and cannot be explained. They and their powerlessness are to be feared. They have always been feared, as those who know the truth of your privilege is to be feared.

Living in the

Age of the individual

Number one is the one and

Only centre of reason,

Being, doing;

the fulcrum on which all

life swivels, turns,



The individual lives life

Within 8 centimetres

Of their nose,

All else is too far away to

See, feel, hear,

Touch, Disturb

The fortress

Of privilege,

Built without question,

By the one Who occupies.


The individual is smugly

self-made, announcing to

all who care to listen

this entitlement is his/her creation

the sole outcome of hard work

And determination.

No-thing existed before

during, after. It belongs

to ego who will not let

It go to anyone else

Without a song and dance

And a viciousness worthy of god.


Privilege, the possession of the

Individual cannot be

Shared; only ceded,

given up, foregone

renounced, denied.

Without it there is no individual.

Just the space where one was.


Privilege, the property of one

And one only

hoarding, boarding up, burying

What they have in a violence

Of self, haunted by the ghost of others.

Privilege the father, fear  spouse,

Violence their offspring.


Thomas Merton, Trappist Monk, writer, and mystic  in a Letter to Dorothy Day  on 20th December 1961 wrote:

“Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. That is not our business and, in fact, it is nobody’s business. What we are asked to do is to love, and this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbours worthy if anything can.”[1]

Privilege, not the

Raison d’etre of the person

For he/she recognises their

Place in society as one of many,

In need of each other,

And the other beyond Knowing.


A person

Exists in relationship,


Indigenous of the universe,

Sentient kin of the un- like.

Belonging to self and other.


There is no “I” in world,

Only an “o”, me displaced

By others in kaleidoscopic

Immensity, beyond imagination,

control, dictate, manipulation.


A person

Denies the propensity to exert

Self, ego, the desire to

Use and discard, fix and repair,

Convert and disappear the unseen,

In homage to the myth of separation

Religion, class, caste, and colour.

No laws to be fulfilled,

Ideologies to be believed.

No creeds to be agreed to.

For in denying self the

Universe is laid open and

Life, others, and creation

cease to be out there.

Border security is no longer required.

All is one, within.


A person who ceases to be an individual,

denies self,

Laying open the empty space,

An unbounded invitation

To all who exist to unearth

Refuge, hope, welcome, safety

Within, unsullied, unstained

except by the hesed-like

Love of the Alpha and Omega,

The Always Was and the Always Will Be

Of the every’when our ancestors sang into being

For us to inhabit yesterday, today, and forever..


The Golden Calf remains,

Blatantly perched on its  pedestal,

in a world preferencing

individual sovereignty,

A world where privilege, so the myth goes,

Is earnt, not given or received

and celebrated as being

Available to all, yet is, beneath the lie,

The blighted issue of position, power

And genealogy. The universal right

Of conquerors who stole, and exterminated

Those who were unworthy of such a gift,

Then, now, and forever. Amen.

It is the right of the chosen

Whose sole claim to it is to be

born of the right race, culture, family, and inheritance.

Privilege, the only word that matters.

To relinquish it, shame,


Denying self,

Ungracious and ungrateful,

A slight on those who

Made self, the individual self,

The goal of all people and

Standard by which they

Are judged as admire-able or superfluous,

The goal of every person worth their salt.


Saying yes to another

Recognising their created worth,

The image of the one or ones

Who created, is without shame.

A yes worthy of the one who spoke

via the only thing he had on, his body,

accomplishing Makarrata

for those without privilege .

A Yes echoing across centuries,

No, millennia,

of spirits and ancestors,

old people and new,

saying yes to those

denied recognition, voice,

on their country.


Thomas Merton, in the same letter quoted above wrote:

Persons are not known by intellect alone, not by principles alone, but only by love. It is when we love the other, the enemy, that we obtain from God the key to an understanding of who he is, and who we are. It is only this realization that can open to us the real nature of our duty, and of right action. To shut out the person and to refuse to consider (them) him as a person, as an-other self, we resort to the impersonal “law” and to abstract “nature.” That is to say we block off the reality of the other, we cut the intercommunication of our nature and (their) his nature, and we consider only our own nature with its rights, its claims, it demands. And we justify the evil we do to our brother “and sister” because (they are) he is no longer a brother “or sister”, (they are) he is merely an adversary, an accused. To restore communication, to see our oneness of nature with (them) him, and to respect (their) his personal rights and (their) his integrity, (their) his worthiness of love, we have to see ourselves as similarly accused along with (them)  him … and needing, with (them)  him, the ineffable gift of grace and mercy to be saved. Then, instead of pushing (them) him down, trying to climb out by using (their) his head as a stepping-stone for ourselves, we help ourselves to rise by helping (them) him to rise. For when we extend our hand to the enemy who is sinking in the abyss, God reaches out to both of us, for it is He first of all who extends our hand to the enemy. It is He who “saves himself” in the enemy, who makes use of us to recover the lost groat which is His image in our enemy.

In conclusion:

Jesus names us

Followers and friends,


Deniers of ego and individuality,

Needs and desires.

In a world of no,

We are yes people,

A gift from his mother

He cherished and became,

A gift he shared

For moments just like the one

We are in, a moment where we

Are called to stand with the

dispossessed and desolated,

People and planet.


Now is our time to repair

By denying privilege and

Saying yes.

[1] Letter to Dorothy Day, quoted in Catholic Voices in a World on Fire (2005) by Stephen Hand, p. 180.


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