Friday of the Fifth Week of Lent
"This is who I am," Jesus tells the Jewish leaders repeatedly. Look at my works, he says. Hear my preaching, examine the scriptures. All testify to my identity, Jesus says. "This is who I am," he tells them in so many words. But they refuse listen. They stubbornly refuse to accept Jesus for who he was. To them, he is a blasphemer. Jesus undoubtedly felt beaten down by their obstinacy and their threats to stone him.
Has the world ever thrown stones at you? Despite your best work performance, the company announces that your job has been eliminated. The world says you’re no longer needed. Your spouse shocks you with the words "this marriage is ended." The world says you’re no longer loved. The doctor delivers the devastating diagnosis. You are seriously ill and will be permanently incapacitated. The world says you no longer serve a useful function in your family or community.
The world takes pleasure in telling us who we are. Too often we’re taken in by its pronouncements. We allow ourselves to be shaped by the world’s shallow values.
What did Jesus do in this circumstance? He returned to the Jordan, to the place where John baptized him. He went there to be refreshed, to be nourished. It was there his father thundered from the heavens words the whole world could hear: "This is my son, and I am proud of him!" Jesus remembered: "This is who I am."
Like Jesus, we too, need to visit our baptismal place to be re-affirmed in our own true identity. It was at our baptism that we became sons and daughters of God. It is there we are reminded that we were created in the image and likeness of God, rooted in his identity. And because of that foundational truth, we are imbued with dignity and respect. Our transcendent value is able to withstand any stones the world can hurl at us. The day we were baptized God thundered from heaven for all to hear: "This is my son. This is my daughter. And I am proud of them!"
Here at the Jordan, we remember: "This is who I am."
Deacon Manuel Valencia is on the staff at Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California.