Baptism of the Lord
We celebrate today the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Today’s gospel reading tells us that Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River. And on coming up out of the water, heaven is torn open and the Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus, then, a voice is heard, saying, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
According to Henri Nouwen, this is the core moment in Jesus’ public life. He is reminded in a deep, deep way of who he is: that he is God’s Beloved. This is his identity! Nouwen comments, “The temptations in the desert are temptation to move him away from that spiritual identity.” “He was tempted to believe that he was someone else.” The devil was convincing Jesus by telling him: “You are the one who can turn stone into bread.” “You are the one who can jump from the temple.” “You are the one who make others bow to your power.”
Jesus, however, held on to his true identity as God’s Beloved. His whole life is continually claiming that identity in the midst of everything – no matter what. Ang lahat ng inisip, sinabi, ginawa, ikinilos at sinakatuparan ni Hesus ay nakaugat at dumadaloy sa katotohanang pinahayag sa kanya: that he is God’s Beloved Son. Ang kanyang buong buhay ay isang katibayan o pagpapatunay sa kanyang pagiging Minamahal na Anak ng Diyos. Indeed, everything that Jesus said or did came forth from his most intimate relationship with his Father. (Henri Nouwen)
As we celebrate the Lord’s Baptism, we also recall our own Baptism, which should lead us to reflect more deeply on our identity. According to Henri Nouwen: “During our short lives the question that guides much of our behavior is: “Who am I?” Isa sa pinakamahalagang tanong ay: Who are you? Our personal answer to this quintessential question greatly influences the way we live our lives. Namumuhay tayo ayon sa ating pagkakakilanlan.
Today’s feast is a timely reminder to all of us that through our own baptism, God has also revealed our true identity: We are God’s BELOVED! Please say with faith and conviction: I am God’s beloved child. One of the tragedies of life is that we keep forgetting who we are. We keep forgetting our true identity. And because we forget this, we spend a significant portion of our life trying to prove what does not need to be proven.
Sad to say, very often we live according to the dictates of the world. The world says that we are what we do. That is why we spend our life trying hard to do much, in terms of achievements and accomplishments – be it in school, career, profession, business – as if we were nobody without doing much. The world says that we are what others say about us. That is why we spend our life trying hard to have a good image, to win the esteem of others, to be admired by people – as if we were nobody without others saying good things about us. The world says that we are what we have. That is why we spend our life trying hard to have much or to have “more of more” – that is, more wealth and power – as if we were nobody without having much. And many are willing to set aside their principles and sell their souls just to get rich, just to be in power, just to be somebody in society. We live our lives as if we were our success and achievement, as if we were our public image and popularity, as if we were our material wealth and political power.
But we know that a life that depends on these things is fragile. Precisely because these things are just external; they usually disappear in a way that we do not have any control or we cannot do anything. We need to constantly go back to the truth of who we are and claim it for ourselves. We need to constantly remind ourselves: “I am not what I have… I am not what I do… I am not what others say about me…” “I am God’s beloved child. This is my true identity.”
According to Pope Francis, aside from the question, “Who are you?” the more important question is: “For whom are you?” Through baptism we have received a new identity: God’s beloved. We have been given the Holy Spirit and we have been consecrated for Christ’s mission.
Let us end with a prayer: Lord God, let me always hear Your Voice calling me: “You are my Beloved.” Help me to constantly go back to the truth of who I am and claim it for myself. Let my life be rooted in my spiritual identity as Your beloved child. May everything I say and do, everything I accomplish and achieve, come forth from my personal relationship with You as my loving Father. Amen.