when i was a kid, i had posters of bruce lee and the great supersonic guard slick watts on my bedroom walls. for me, they were the coolest guys. in the living room, mom has had pictures of the family and later, pictures from my ordination tot he priesthood. we often like to put up pictures of aspiration, pride and important experiences in our lives.
around 2006 in fresno, ca i visited a family for dinner. as i was looking at the various pictures on their living room walls, i noticed something that i had never seen before so prominently displayed: two baptism certificates. when i asked them about it, they explained that they were proud when their children were baptised and they wanted to show it.
it felt like i was hit by a ton of bricks.
of course, baptism is a proud moment for loved ones for their baby. of course the things on our walls reflect what is important and beautiful in our lives. why was this the first time i had ever met someone who put a baptism certificate on their living room wall? where was my baptism certificate?
aspiration, pride, an experience to remember.
what makes a person a christian? in a word, baptism. this sacrament is a new birth from above that helps us realize our true identity: sons and daughters of God; born because of and for love. this is our primary call and it takes a lifetime to unpack what it all means for us to be graced children of God. as catholics, all of the other sacrament– especially eucharist– help us deepen our understanding of this fundamental identity and call.
grace helps and strengthens us in the love journey; sin diminishes this grace of who we really are and want to be.
today, we liturgically celebrate the feast of the baptism of the Lord. as always in the gospels, jesus shows us what being baptised is all about. here is the text from mark 1: 7-11:
This is what John the Baptist proclaimed:
“One mightier than I is coming after me.
I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.
I have baptized you with water;
he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
It happened in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee
and was baptized in the Jordan by John.
On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open
and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him.
And a voice came from the heavens,
“You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
jesus did not announce himself. many people thought that the savior was john the baptist, but he told us that it would be jesus who gives new life in the Spirit. the Spirit will wash us clean. the Spirit will help and guide us to life in grace, justice, blessing, love, holiness and peace. in this baptism from above, jesus shares his life with us through baptism.
his baptism in the waters of the jordan did not make jesus holy. by his presence, jesus made the waters of baptism holy. the Holy Spirit and jesus and the Father–together in this moment– reveal to us that jesus of nazareth is also the Christ. jesus is the Father’s “beloved son in with whom i am well pleased.” God shows us who God is in this sacred moment.
this sacred moment of love is now shared with us. we enter into the relational life of the father-son and spirit: the Spirit descends upon us in inexplicable ways. the father adopts us as sons and daughters in our very being; and he is well pleased. jesus’ baptism is offered to us grace-filled love without condition.
how often and how easily we can forget who we really are and our call to live in this love!
how is my baptismal relationship with God at this time? what reminds me of who i am as a son or daughter of God? do i really believe that i am beloved by God as i am? am i aware of the ways that the Spirit is bringing me to grace and holiness of life?
is jesus aspirational in my life? is being a son or daughter of God a source of pride for me? if so, how do i show it? how do i remember my own baptism?
how can i better see and i love others as sons and daughters of God?
where is my baptismal certificate right now?
let us pray:
Dear Lord, We thank you for your love, that we have become sons and daughters of a heavenly Father. We pray for those who have been baptised in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. May they walk forward, cleansed of sin, embraced and loved by the Father. May they follow the lead of the Lord Jesus Christ, guiding their paths. And may they be filled with the Holy Spirit, flowing with love and grace, drinking in the truth of God and pouring out your hope and redemption into a broken world. Amen.
(a baptism prayer from http://www.lords-prayer-words.com)