Whose We Are

baptismal gown

One element of our baptismal ceremony for babies and children who have not yet reached the age of reason is clothing those being baptized with a white garment. The words accompanying this gesture include “You have become a new creation, and have clothed yourselves in Christ . . . the outward sign of your Christian dignity.” The rite goes on to suggest that it “is desirable that the families provide the garments” (Rite of Baptism for Children). My family has a tradition of using the same baptismal coat for all the children— down through several generations and so the baptismal coat and blanket has become a cherished family heirloom. It symbolizes a double iden­tity: a member of our particular family who share a common blood bond as well as a member of the family of God, of Christ’s Body, who share a Life bond in the Holy Spirit. Baptism, then, is about who we become through our new re­lationship with God and each other.

The event of Jesus’ baptism with water in the Jordan revealed who he al­ready was: the “beloved Son” with whom God was “well pleased.” Jesus’ bap­tism did not change his identity, but revealed who he was.

The event of our baptism with the Spirit announces to all present who we become: beloved children with whom God is “well pleased.”  We are plunged into the baptismal waters and rise out of those waters a new creation grafted onto Christ. We spend our lives growing into our identity as members of the Body of Christ. We spend our lives appreciating what it means to be God’s beloved and the kind of life that relationship requires of us. We spend our lives continuing Jesus’ saving mission. We spend our lives being the risen Presence of Christ for others. Being Christlike is what our baptismal iden­tity is all about. [Living Liturgy]

Every choice we make on our Christian journey either deepens our identity as God’s beloved or weakens it. We either respond to a person in need, or walk away. We either put in an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay, or we steal time and money. We either take time for daily prayer, or neglect conversation time with God. We either strive to grow in understanding our faith, or remain content with inadequate formation. Who we are is God’s beloved, that is, the Body of Christ. Our baptismal call is to become every day more fully who we are. Growing in our identity is our most important lifelong task, doing works with which God is well pleased.

Adapted from Renew International Prayer Time Cycke B

The Baptism of Jesus

Image by He Qi

Eighteenth-century English poet Alexander Pope once remarked that if we expect nothing, we shall never be disappointed. Such a low bar we might set for ourselves! Yes, great expectations might disappoint by blinding us to the good already in front of us, or leading us to future failure. Yet, it is better to risk disappointment than be stuck with nothing to look forward to, nothing to excite us, nothing to increase our hope. Expectations spur us on to remarkable achievement; urge us to seek excellence with greater diligence; push us to the kind of creativeness that opens the door for something new to happen, for discovering new possibilities, for embracing the unknown.

The people in the gospel looked to John the Baptist to be the longawaited Messiah. It was precisely their expectation—misdirected though it was—that kept them looking for the Messiah. John redirected them from himself to the person of Jesus, the “beloved Son” of God. Our own baptism with “the Holy Spirit and fire” initiates us on a journey of discovery not only of who Jesus is, but also who we are in him. This gospel, then, teaches us something about John, Jesus, and ourselves.

Who was John the Baptist? He was set apart, prophetic, radical, clear about his message of repentance, sure about his identity as the herald of One who would be greater than he. Who is Jesus? He is the Messiah to whom John pointed, the “beloved Son” of God, the One who, because of his own prophetic, radical, and sure message, would be misunderstood, rejected, ridiculed, deserted, crucified.

Who are we? We are those who, through our baptism “with the Holy Spirit and fire,” are conformed to Jesus and take up his saving mission. From his baptism by John to his crucifixion, the Messiah did not meet mere human expectations. Rather, he exceeded them with his Good News, his healing, his love. From our own baptism to our death, we also must not meet mere human expectations. Rather, we must achieve the full potential of our own graced identity as God’s own people expressed through a Gospel way of living.

Living Liturgy 2016