The Baptism of Jesus
Fruit of the Mystery: Openness to the Holy Spirit
Beloved of the Father
by Michelle D’Silva
One word to describe myself: planner. I thrive on lists. If you saw the number of books and planners that adorned our tiny closet prior to our first baby arriving into our world, you would be impressed (or even nauseated) at the level of detail. Yet with all these plans, I wasn’t prepared for what lay ahead. When the big day arrived, a 48-hour labor, postpartum complications, and unexpected financial losses concluded our most planned moment. The reality was before us: there wasn’t going to be any party. We were facing debt, chasing doctors, and wrestling sleepless nights.
Yet as we made our way to our daughter’s baptism that morning, a beautiful thought filled my mind: a child was being welcomed into the kingdom of light; a child was being immersed into the luminous mysteries of God. Our faith was bigger than our little world and God’s love greater than our circumstances. A tiny flicker of hope began to arise.
Our deepest identity
In the first luminous mystery, the Baptism of Jesus, we are invited to reflect deeply on the gift of our baptism. Having lived as an atheist for most of my life, baptism or any religious celebration had no significance. It was following my conversion in 2004 that I discovered that Baptism is not simply a celebration of new life, but rather, the visible sign of invisible Grace incorporated into the Mystical Body of Jesus. It is our deepest identity.
We all possess identities in this world. For some it is money, for others power, and popularity. I had spent my entire life pursuing the world, seeking its validation but running on empty. I would learn painfully that every identity the world offers has a shelf life and cannot quench my deepest thirst.
When I accepted Jesus Christ as Savior, the lens through which I saw the world and myself was dramatically altered. In a world of fleeting promises, I discovered a deeply rooted identity, one infused within me like a mark of ownership, a mark that cannot be erased even with sin, because it is placed on my very soul (CCC 1272). I am indelibly marked. I am forever His.
Beloved of the Father
Pope Francis says, “We are God’s beloved children. This is our deepest identity. It is the first point of the spiritual life and we are reminded about it by Jesus’ first public gesture.” First, we see Jesus “immersing” Himself in the midst of people; He joins them, fully taking on their human condition. By joining them, He shares in their deep desire for inner renewal. Second, we see the heavens opening and the Holy Spirit descending upon Jesus like a dove and a voice from heaven saying, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17)
But what do we know of Jesus up to that moment? That He was born in Bethlehem? That He helped His father with carpentry? Our modern cynic crowd on Twitter would have questioned His ministerial credentials. Jesus hadn’t healed the sick, walked on water, or raised the dead up until that moment and yet the voice from heaven affirmed, “This is my Son, my Chosen one, my Beloved One.”
We live in a world of noise. There are so many voices luring us into counterfeit identities, telling us we’re not enough, that we need to be more, do more, and be better, “only then” will we be worthy of belonging. How many of us succumb to this old serpent’s lie? How many of us sink into the deep hole of self-rejection?
Having lived my whole life with a performance mentality, I found it challenging to see God as a Father who loved without conditions. I was also wounded by words. Deep down the child within me struggled, wondering if in the end she was just the worthless name she’d been called.
Henri Nouwen said, “Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the ‘Beloved.’” It has taken a whole healing journey to arrive at the revelation that though I may see many titles for myself⸺parent, wife, leader, or sinner⸺God sees only one: His beloved.
Have we considered how different our lives would be if we agreed with the sacred voice, rather than the condemning voice?
The Holy Spirit and Mission
I love that the fruit of this mystery is Openness to the Holy Spirit. In my conversion journey, God placed a Hindu convert in my path, whose witness was palpable. Over time I discovered that his family had abandoned him. He clearly bore the scars of discipleship. Yet his face was ever radiant with joy. He had something I never had. As an atheist my experience was not only confined to rebellion against God but also people, mainly my family.
The likeness of Christ is not produced by imitation but by inhabitation. This is the work of the Holy Spirit. The first fruit of my conversion was repentance, followed by forgiveness. I began to deeply desire to reconcile with people who had hurt me and those I had hurt. Being scientifically drawn my whole life, I witnessed spiritual “regeneration” as the scales fell off and new sight was birthed. God was real and my life had meaning and purpose.
I was not only a child of God but also a member of Christ’s body, an heir of Heaven (CCC 1279). At my baptism, I didn’t just plunge into water; I plunged into my destiny as Priest, Prophet, and King. Over the years I discovered gifts I never had and witnessed in places I never dreamt I would travel to. God brought healing in my family and the deep restorative work of the Spirit continues even to this day.
Living under Open Heaven
Are you struggling to receive yourself as God’s Beloved?
This year, perhaps take time to meditate on the thought of being God’s Beloved. This is the image God holds of you. Is this the image you hold of yourself? We need to train our minds to replace the voices of the world with what Henri Nouwen called “the voice of the Beloved.”
Also, what would it mean if we treated each person, in our path, as God’s Beloved? May I invite you to think of one person you can affirm this week. Appreciating one another sets us free from the common cultural roller coaster of comparison and competition.
When the heavens were opened at Jesus’s baptism, there is no written record that it was ever closed again. The Spirit of God rested upon Him, and never had a reason to retreat. Jesus walked in the revelation of being the Beloved, operating under Open Heaven. Today, wherever you find yourself, whether with broken plans or secondary paths, in this mystery you are assured of both, your destiny and destination that is unchanging. The heavens are opened, and the streaming light of heaven beckons you to come even as it propels you forward to carry His luminous Presence to a world bereft of Hope; this same world longing to hear the voice: You are my beloved. You are loved.
Michelle Karen D’Silva is an itinerant Catholic speaker housed in the little peninsula of Qatar. With an immense passion for discipleship, her vision is to see young people and women bloom into radical future saints. Her favorite moments include her time at home engaging with these fire-starters over conversations coupled with karak and hummus.
Whether preaching, writing, or training, she never fails to return to Pope Benedict XVI—her go-to-guy, who constantly inspires her to live out the “Call to Greatness” as an empowered woman empowering women in ministry, wife to a doting hubby, and mama to two constantly hungry sheep.
Visit her website www.michelledsilva.com to learn more.