January 10, 2021 – Feast of the Baptism of the Lord
Click here for the readings (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/011021.cfm)
Who are you? How do people define yourself? How do you define yourself?
Henri Nouwen, a known pastoral theologian and spiritual teacher once said: “We are not what we do. We are not what we have. We are not what others think of us. Coming home is claiming the truth that… I am the beloved Child of the Creator.”
True indeed, we do tend to define our life by what we do, what we have & what others say about us. In defining ourselves, we do tend to claim & know ourselves & others by our talents, abilities, successes as well as our failures & mistakes. We do tend to see ourselves & others by our backgrounds, possessions, privileges, properties, friends, influences, power, as well as limitations, poverty, and misfortunes. We do tend to characterize ourselves & others by the praises, awards, titles, honor, as well as by the insults, gossips, & comments people say about us. We do tend to name our identity, dignity, reputations, & life-purpose by what we do & not do, what we have & we have not, and what other say & not say about us.
Though much effort & time we have spent in life to identify ourselves & others by our actions, possessions & feedbacks, we do know deep inside that these standards are limited & limiting. These self-classifications are degrading (ka-menos) to our very person & not who we really are. Eventually we have to claim that we are more than and better than what we do, what we have, & what people say about us. Eventually we need to believe & come home to the reality that we (you & I) are God’s beloved. We need to claim & name ourselves as essentially God’s beloved Child.
The chance of claiming & naming ourselves as God’s beloved Child is perhaps the most profound realization & blessing we can give to God & ourselves in life. Even Jesus Himself also have to experience and went through the process of claiming & naming Himself as God’s beloved Child.
Before launching to His mission of evangelization in sharing to the world the Gospel of Salvation, Jesus must have first gone through a lot of soul-searching as to what is His very identity, dignity, reputation & purpose. Human like us, Jesus also grappled with the basic human question: “Who am I?” and reflected with our tendency to define ourselves by our actions, possessions & feedback.
And on His baptism by the river Jordan, Jesus came to realize & experience who He really is – God’s beloved Child. Jesus needs to hear the words of confirmation from the Father, himself saying, “You are my beloved on whom my favor rests”. Such words emphasize His very spiritual identity before God and the vision of God’s kingdom. Here, He is reminded in a very deep way of who he really is, of his very being before God and people – that among anything else, He is God’s beloved Son. This is the very affirmation and confirmation of His being before God. That beyond what he can do, what he can have, & what people would say about him, Jesus has to listen & honor, and claim & name for Himself that He is God’s beloved son, whom God is well pleased.
Claiming & naming His being God’s beloved child did not only empower Jesus to now & always proclaim God’s grace of salvation to all in our world, but also serve as the content, process & spirit of His mission. As He claimed & named His very identity before God, Jesus also preached, taught & guided us the Good News that beyond what we do, what we have, & what others say about us in life, we are also essentially God’s beloved children – and that is how valuable & significant we are before God. And same way with Jesus, we only realize & come to term with this reality by our soul-searching, claiming & naming, affirming & confirming, and until be at home & at rest with our True identity as God’s beloved Children. And only then, we can find more meaning & purpose in life when we regard ourselves & others as ultimately God’s children.
Today on the Feast Day of the Lord’s baptism, we are reminded of who we are & how significant we really are before God & others, as God’s beloved Children. And we are also reminded on the very day of our baptism when we ourselves are consecrated, affirmed & confirmed to be always God’s beloved Child.
This year 2021 is also a very important year for the Philippine Church. It marks not only 500 years of Magellan’s discovery of the Philippine Islands in March 16, 1521 but moreso of the first baptism happened in our land and the 500 years – five decades of Filipino Catholic faith. Although for more than three decades we have been colonized by Spanish rules, upon our independence, we did not abandon our Catholic faith but rather remain faithful to our Filipino faith that provides us the cultural values and principles that made us Filipinos as one nation and heritage, and as the only Christian nation in Asia with 86 % Catholic among more than 100 million Filipino people all over the world. In other words, as Filipino nation & society, since then & until now, we identify, define & claim ourselves as baptized Christians, beloved Children of God.
Perhaps as we begin this New Year amidst pandemic times, the best Message you may hear today is to proclaim to yourself & other that :
And as Filipino Christians, we proclaim to ourselves & others that:
We are God’s beloved – a valued, valuing, & valuable people whom God’s favor rest & God loves now & forever. For that is who we are, who you are, & who I am. Amen.