“You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
What would it have been like to be there - to hear those words from heaven?
Many people were being baptized that day. The preaching of John the Baptist had stirred up an expectation in their hearts - the Messiah, the savior, was coming soon. Maybe John was the one they were waiting for!
Among that crowd, Jesus come to be baptized. We know from the Gospel of Matthew that John is hesitant to baptize him: he says, “It’s you who should be baptizing me,” but Jesus insists.
That is when something different happens - heaven opens up, the Holy Spirit comes down on Jesus in the form of a dove, and the Father speaks.
What’s happening here is important for many reasons. This story tells us about who Jesus is, but it also speaks to our identity and our baptism.
First, the baptism of Jesus is a moment when Jesus’ true identity is revealed. He is more than just a teacher, more, even, than a miracle worker - he is the Son of God - and God Himself testifies to that.This is one of a few moments in the Gospels where we see the Trinity revealed: the Son is baptized, the Spirit descends, and the Father speaks. Here, at the very beginning of His ministry, we see Jesus for who He really is, and that identity matters.
During his life on earth and all the time since then, people have tried to put Jesus in a box. They reduce Him to just a wise man or a political idealist or even a fool who got in over His head. But here at His baptism, the Father declares the truth. Jesus is the Son. And if that is who He truly is, then our response to Him truly matters. We can’t just treat Him as one among many people who have some good advice - we either acknowledge Him as our God and Lord or we ignore the very heart of what He came to do.
Jesus’ identity as the Son of God matters because of what He offers to us - what He started with His baptism.
Jesus, who had no sin to repent of, was baptized to show us the way. He made an example of Himself and from the beginning of the Church, baptism has been the way that we enter into our relationship with God. Some of the last words Jesus spoke to His disciples before He ascended into heaven were the command to baptize: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”
Baptism is our gateway - it’s how we enter into a relationship that leads to eternal life. Whether it happened to us as an infant or as an adult, the day of our baptism is one of the most important days of our lives - more important, even, than our birthday. In baptism, we are given a supernatural life - a life that can never die.
When we are baptized the Father claims us as His sons and daughters. We may not hear a voice from heaven, but it is true: You are my beloved son, you are my beloved daughter. From that moment on, that is our identity, and nothing can take it away.
Even if someone abandons the faith and lives their life rejecting God, they are still baptized. They are only denying the truth.
That’s why we can only be baptized once - it does something permanent to our soul. Someone who was baptized in another church and then later becomes Catholic doesn’t need to be baptized again. As long as they were baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and water was poured on them, they are baptized. We are claimed forever as children of God.
However, that doesn’t mean that once we’re baptized we don’t have to make an effort. Just as a child can reject his or her parents and family, we can run away from our Father. We can refuse to accept the love and grace that He offers us - we can deny our identity.
From the day of our baptism until the day of our death, our responsibility is to live up to being children of God. That’s who we are.
When people encounter us, do they see that? Do they recognize the Father in His children? Do they see the way we treat our brothers and sisters and wish that they could join this family?
Remember your baptism - remember your identity. Even if it happened when you were a month old, it changed you. Each one of us is a child of the Father, brought into this family by His Son, and transformed by the power of the Spirit.
Let us live as sons and daughters of the Father. Let us show the world Who we belong to.