Our True Identity

Dear Friends in Christ:

On my desk is a photo taken from one of our parish pilgrimages to the Holy Land. It is a photo that was taken when the parishioners and I went to the Jordan River to renew our baptismal vows. Most of us probably do not think too much about our baptisms. It is most likely something that we acknowledge but don’t dwell upon. But in fact, it is one of the greatest aspects of our lives. It is the key to our identity. The answer to who we are and what we are is contained in the fact of our baptism.
The gospel accounts of Jesus’ baptism, makes clear Jesus’ true identity. In Matthew, Mark and Luke Jesus’ identity is revealed in a spectacular way by his baptism in the Jordan by John. With the recognition of the Wise Men (last week’s Gospel) and the first miracle at Cana (next week’s Gospel), the Baptism of Jesus (today’s Gospel) is part of the manifestation, Epiphany, of who Jesus really is. Just in case we miss it, the evangelists report it for us, “You are my beloved Son.” (Lk 3:22) The other side of this equation of who Jesus is occurs at the crucifixion, “Truly this man was the Son of God.” (Mk 15:39). What was revealed first to Mary and Joseph and then to the shepherds, to Anna and Simeon, the Magi, to John the Baptist, to the wedding guests at Cana, to the apostles, the crowds, the blind, the sick and the lame, the chief priests and elders and even to Pontius Pilate is stated again in Jesus’ death and resurrection. Jesus IS the only Son of God! Moreover, through his baptism and his crucifixion, he shows us that he, who is truly God’s only Son, also totally identifies with us as sinful human beings who, because of our sins, are in need salvation because we are under the penalty of death. For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him. (2 Cor 5:21) Jesus’ baptism reveals not only his identity but gives us a NEW identity through him. Jesus becomes like us and takes on our condition so that our identity can change from sinful creatures or people who do not know who they are to being transformed into the children of God, born in the waters of baptism and made righteous.
It is not so much in vogue as it was some years ago, but the phrase “born again” is important to who we are. Each of us who have received the sacrament of baptism has indeed been “born again”. Through the waters of baptism we are born into God’s family and we become new creatures with a new identity. It is our relationship with God in Jesus that defines us and gives us this new identity. It is indeed odd that in our age when there is so much confusion and consternation about identity that this occurs at the same time that more and more people are abandoning or neglecting to see and acknowledge God. Any attempt for humans to know themselves apart from God is foolish and ultimately futile. The more we try to identify and define ourselves on our own terms and using ourselves as the reference point, the more frustrated we become in the quest to truly know ourselves. It is fascinating that in the catechisms of years gone by, that Catholic first graders were given the key to understanding human existence.
Who made you? God made me!
Why did God make you? God made me to know Him, love and serve Him in this world and to be happy with Him in the next!
That is it! That is our true identity. Our identity and our happiness is always tied to God. Jesus’ baptism was not for his sake, but for ours. In our baptism, we acknowledge that who and what we are can only be known by our relationship with God. We start with God, not with ourselves. God created us and our destiny is to be with God. That is who we are. Our baptism is the key to our ultimate happiness and truest identity. All we have to do is live it every day!

In pace Christi,
Fr. Troy