I still cringe when I see pictures of myself (or even imagine them!) from my first year in high school. Not yet ready for contact lenses, every day I donned a pair of oversized pink plastic glasses that were always sliding awkwardly down my nose. As the daughter of a dentist, of course I had to wear braces, since good teeth were the family business. And while other girls somehow managed to make the black uniform jumpers of our Catholic school look normal or even fashionable, mine was too long and made me feel about as cute as if I was wearing a potato sack. (At least I had finally decided that the frizzy perm of my middle school days was no longer a good idea!)
As I think more about it, it is not so much the glasses, the braces, and the jumper that make me cringe. What makes me cringe is the discomfort with myself that is palpable in every photograph of me at that age. I look as if I want to flee my body or at least put up a large barrier between me and any camera.
Have there been times in your life when you have not been comfortable with who you are? Have there been times when you wished you could have changed some physical, emotional, cognitive, or other part of yourself?
My guess is that Jesus did not really fit in with his contemporaries either. In the one story we have from his teenage years, Jesus scares his parents to death by staying behind in the temple to discuss religion and religious laws with the Jewish teachers rather than travel home with his family. Caring about religion this much, in addition to his sense that he was somehow different from other people, might have led Jesus to feel a bit isolated or maybe even uncomfortable in his own skin.
But then we get the story of Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River by John the Baptist in this week’s Gospel from Luke. After Jesus is baptized, we are told that “the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form, as a dove, and a voice came from heaven.” This voice said, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
Can you imagine how Jesus would have felt hearing this? I have to believe that hearing of God’s pleasure toward him helped Jesus to accept who he was created by God to be and even to rejoice in this self.
In baptism, we all become brothers and sisters with Christ. As Christ’s sisters and brothers, we also take on the status as God’s children. So what God says to Jesus at his baptism, God also says to us, all day, every day (even when we wear big pink glasses, clunky braces, and unfashionable uniforms). God says to us, “You are my beloved child; with you I am pleased.” God is pleased with us not because of how we look, the grades we get, the touchdowns we score, or even the people we help through service projects. God is pleased with us simply because we are who we are: God’s children.
While many of us were baptized years ago, there are some things we can do to remind us of the joy God takes in us and our identity as God’s children.
- Every morning or every evening when you look in the mirror or brush your teeth, take a minute to really look at yourself and repeat, “I am a beloved child of God. With me God is well pleased.”
- When you wash your face, repeat the words of baptism with each splash of water: “In the name of the Father,” splash, “In the name of the Son,” splash, “In the name of the Holy Spirit,” splash. (This idea comes from the Practicing Our Faith project.)
What other ideas can you think of for how you can continue to celebrate your baptism and your identity as a child of God every day?
Do you know the story of your baptism? Even if you think you know it fairly well, take some time this week to ask your parents or godparents about your baptism.