jesus’ baptism and our transformation

when was the last time i thought to myself, “i am a son of God”? because of my circumstances now, i think about being my mother’s son often. at times i am a good son, at times not such a good son. but to reflect deeply on being a son of God is something that is not often explicit for me. of course i know that because of my baptism that his filial identity is the main part of who i am and ought to be. certainly i cannot remember the last time anyone actually saying to art gramaje, “you are a son of God.”

for me, the feast of the baptism of the Lord is really about remembering that the love that the Father and jesus shared is gifted to us too. here is today’s gospel reading from luke chapter 3:

The people were filled with expectation,
and all were asking in their hearts
whether John might be the Christ.
John answered them all, saying,
“I am baptizing you with water,
but one mightier than I is coming.
I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

After all the people had been baptized
and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying,
heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him
in bodily form like a dove.
And a voice came from heaven,
“You are my beloved Son;
with you I am well pleased.”

the people wanted a messiah and filled with expectation. but they mistakenly thought it was the prophet john who was powerfully baptizing with water. but john points to a greater one who will baptize them in the Holy Spirit and fire. this is a baptism that they have not yet experienced or seen.

until now

then another type of epiphany occurred before their eyes. after jesus’ baptism in water, the descent of the Holy Spirit over him with the voice from heaven, “you are my beloved son; with you i am well pleased.” the Spirit will be with jesus throughout his wondrous deeds, teachings, miracles, suffering and journey to calvary to his death. and resurrection.

but it all starts with his identity as a son of God and being beloved. love is the driver in these relationships. love is the reason for this existence. we do not manufacture it; love is a gift-grace and it develops through the Spirit.

during my novitiate, over 30 years ago now, we had many conferences. during one of the conferences on prayer, our novice director said that a christian goes to prayer in order to allow God to love him/her. i still believe the truth of this wisdom. prayer is primarily an opportunity to be refreshed in God’s gratuitous and unconditional love. in this love, we remember who we really are: sons and daughters of God. in prayer, God accepts our feeble attempts to return this love. this is faith.

so why don’t i pray more?

for us catholics, today’s feast of jesus’ baptism is the final day of the christmas season. it is fitting because the center of this season is the miracle-mystery of the incarnation: the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. this gift of love is for our salvation: God becomes human so that we may become like God. indeed, jesus is the key. jesus’ baptism was the foundational beginning for his teachings and actions.

in our communion with jesus, we are renewed in our own baptism and identity as sons and daughters of God. and the life sustaining love of God for us as we are. this is our healing salvation; this is our sanctification through the Spirit.

let us pray:

“are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life. For if we have grown into union with him through a death like his, we shall also be united with him in the resurrection.” romans 6: 3-6

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