The feast of our Lord’s baptism marks the beginning of Ordinary Time where we enter into Sunday Gospel passages that help us understand the call to Christian discipleship through the lens of Jesus’ public ministry. "Ordinary Time" seems apropos to share some reflections on our own baptismal identity as Christians, beloved daughters and sons of God…
The event of Jesus’ baptism with water in the Jordan revealed who he already was: the “beloved Son” with whom God was “well pleased.” John prophesied that Jesus, however, would baptize us with the Holy Spirit. The event of our baptism with the Spirit announces who we become: beloved children with whom God is “well pleased.” Our whole Christian life is a journey of taking ownership of the identity God has given to us.
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 Christ-like is what our baptismal identity is all about.
Being baptized by “the Holy Spirit and fire” means that we share in Jesus’ mission, including the total gift of ourselves. Who we are manifests God’s Presence in the very dying to self we do each day as we conform ourselves to God’s will. We learn our mission from experiencing and encountering Christ through others. Our Christian journey is about realizing that we ourselves are God’s Presence for another. We must constantly redirect our own expectations so that we keep focused on the One “mightier than I” who comes to others, now, through us.
Learning a new skill takes a long time. The aging of a new wine takes a long time. Getting to know another person well as a beloved and trusted friend takes a long time. Taking ownership of and being faithful to our baptismal identity as God’s beloved takes a lifetime. While God freely gives us this gift of identity as Christians through the Holy Spirit, we must accept it and make it our own. This takes a lifetime of faithful living. 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 Christian identity is our most important lifelong task. Let’s take up this call and challenge together as we begin a new year and a new season of Ordinary Time.