Baptism of the Lord
Fr. Earl Meyer, in his book of homilies, tells an anecdote about the famous Spanish artist Pablo Picasso. Picasso was once sunning himself on a beach in France. A woman recognized him and sent her little boy over to him with a piece of paper to beg for a sketch or his autograph.
Picasso was familiar with such techniques for pilfering his artistic work. So, he tore up the paper and drew an artistic design on the little boy’s chest and signed his autograph. “Tell your mother,” he said, “that now she can never wash you again.”
The little boy is marked with a very expensive drawing of Picasso. Something like this happened when we were baptized. By baptism we have been marked as children of God. Baptism marks us in the image of Christ.
We celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Jesus’ baptism is different from our baptism. Jesus is sinless without need of baptismal cleansing. Yet, in one sense, Jesus’ baptism is similar to our baptism. At the baptism of Jesus, God the Father declared, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
The mark of Baptism, the mark of being God’s children, is indelible. You are forever a Christian – an image of Christ – whether you live like one or not. Even if others do not see Christ in you, God always sees the image of his Son in you. You are always his beloved child.
The words spoken by God regarding Jesus in today’s gospel, apply also to each one of us by virtue of our Baptism: “You are my beloved child; with you I am well pleased.” By baptism we are sons and daughters of God, in the image of Christ, God’s own divine son.
This feast of the Baptism of the Lord completes the Christmas season. It also links Christmas to the rest of the liturgical year. The unifying thread is the incarnation. One gospel commentary says, “At Christmas, humanity has been elevated to the level of divinity by Christ sharing our human nature.” “This co-mingling of the human and the divine is reflected in baptism.” By baptism we enter into the life of God’s family, because God declares, “You are my beloved child; with you I am well pleased.”
God has revealed our true identity: We are his Beloved! I want to invite you to allow this revelation to touch you… to let these words reverberate in your heart. Please say with faith and conviction: “I am God’s beloved child.” We are God’s beloved daughters and sons, not because we have proven ourselves worthy of God’s love, but because God freely chose us to be his beloved.
We need to constantly go back to this truth of who we are and claim it for ourselves. Dapat maging malinaw sa atin – at lagi nating ipaaalala sa sarili natin – na ang halaga at dangal natin bilang tao ay hindi batay sa academic honors, career achievements, business successes… sa kayamanan, ari-arian, kapangyarihan, impluwensiya… sa good public image, high approval rating, fame, and popularity. We need to constantly hear the voice telling us: “You are my beloved child; with you I am well pleased.” God blesses us by saying or revealing the greatest truth about ourselves: we are his Beloved.
To hear this Voice of Love constantly we need to develop the discipline of silent prayer. Prayer is the discipline that can help us remember our true identity. It keeps us in touch with our being God’s beloved. Without prayer, we become deaf to the Voice of Love and become confused by the many competing voices demanding that we listen – grabbing our attention.
Kapag nagdarasal tayo, ang tendency natin ay magsabi o magsambit ng maraming bagay sa Diyos – tayo ang nangungusap o nagsasalita. But what we should really do in prayer is to be silent and listen. As Henri Nouwen puts it, “The real ‘work’ of prayer is to become silent and listen to the voice that says, ‘You are my beloved child; with you I am well pleased.’”
Let us end with a prayer: Lord God, You continue to bless me by saying good things of me. But many times, I am not present to listen to Your Voice of Love. Help me to develop the discipline of prayer in which I open myself up to receive Your blessings. Help me to be sensitive and responsive to all the blessings that come into my life, to all the good things You say of me. May I always live by the truth that I am Your Beloved Child. Amen.