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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

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Baptism gives us our most basic identity of who we are

Baptism gives us our most basic identity of who we are

Pope John Paul II once said that what was important about him was not the fact that he was the pope; what was more important was the fact that he was baptized.

Sometimes figuring out who we are is difficult. If you had to answer the question “Who are you?”, what answer would you give? Most of us would describe a role that we play like I’m a mechanic, I’m a student, I’m an American, I’m a mother or a wife, a father or an oil field worker, a sugar cane farmer or I’m the youngest in my family and so on.

These descriptions would say something about what we do but would not have touched the deepest truth of who we are. Many people are single, husbands or wives, students, oil field workers, or business people. Those roles don’t get to the bottom of the question about who we are. It is really our Baptism that gives us the most comprehensive answer to that question.

It is through our Baptism that we come to know who we are. Not only were we baptized many years ago, we are baptized at this very moment. Baptism is about the present, not about the past. When we talk about ourselves, we don’t say I was a man or a woman. We say I am a man or a woman. Whenever we describe ourselves, we are talking in the present tense. It is the present and the future we are talking about when we talk about who we are.

Baptism gives us our most basic identity. Through Baptism we affirm that we are sons and daughters of a loving God and brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ. We are also a dwelling place for the Holy Spirit. This is who we really are.

Throughout the rest of our lives, we live so that this basic identity becomes stronger and stronger. If we are faithful to our Baptism, then everything we do grows out of the fact that we are God’s beloved children.

We all have other identities besides our basic identity as a Baptized person. There are thousands of different ways in which we are asked to live out our lives. How do these identities fit in with our basic identity?

This is where we have to learn how to live both as a son or daughter of God while also being immersed in the things of this world. Someone who spends his or her life in a laboratory doing research must discover how that work can be done in a spirit of love and concern. That research must make the world a better place to live. We can say the same thing of any other profession.

Our life’s work must be done within the framework of our Baptism. It is like drawing a smaller circle within a larger circle. The larger circle encloses the smaller circle and in a certain way, protects and defines that smaller circle. Our Baptism encompasses our life in the world, and gives it shape and focus.

Baptism is a true “Christ-ening,” making us other Christs. The Spirit given to us empowers us to reveal God’s love and grace to the world. The Spirit enables us to be “rulers,” that is, taking responsibility to get our own “house” in order so we can overcome the evil forces within ourselves and our world. It also means being open to those who are weak, poor, and in need.

God is calling all of us to be holy and live out our baptismal mission just as Jesus did. Many of us have already responded to and embraced our vocation. God wants to renew the church and needs each of us to renew our hearts. Are you willing to answer God’s call?