Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7
or Isaiah 55: 1-11
or 1 John 5:1-9
No sooner did Jesus emerge from the muddy River Jordan, than the skies were torn in two, the Holy Spirit descended on him, and God the Father thundered from heaven "This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased." This is the moment when the divine identity of Jesus was revealed.
And yet, that booming baptismal declaration also concealed something – who Jesus is. What does it mean to be "My son, the beloved"?
The answer unfolded slowly in the ensuing life of Jesus, when, filled with the Holy Spirit, he embarked on his mission, proclaiming the Good News, healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, unshackling prisoners, taking up his cross.
What happened to Jesus happens to us at our baptism. The first words in the Sacrament of Baptism come in the form of a question: What name do you give this child? The priest or deacon isn’t seeking information for a certificate. It is the Church asking the existential question: what is the identity of this child? Who is this child?" And when the parents announced for all to hear – his name is James; her name is Julia – at that moment the Church declared "I claim you for Christ." Our identity was forever marked with the sign of the cross on our forehead.
At that moment, the Holy Spirit entered into us and, like a proud parent, God the Father again thundered his declaration: "This is my son, this is my daughter whom I love." The Divine Parent has spoken.
But this baptismal declaration conceals as much as it reveals. How we live our lives as beloved sons and daughters of God slowly discloses the answer. It is revealed to the extent that we proclaim the Good News, as we serve our brothers and sisters. Ultimately, it is revealed as we take up our cross.
Deacon Manuel Valencia is on the ministry staff at Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California