“Know, O beautiful soul, that you are the image of God. Know that you are the glory of God.” — St. Ambrose of Milan
What are your dreams? To whom have you entrusted your desires to love and be loved? What anchors your hope to do something great with the gift of your life? Ask God’s Spirit of love to gather these sacred desires. Then go, bring them to the only place they can worthily be held: the heart of your heart, the hidden center where you live with God. Go to the heart of your baptism, where you are beloved, where you belong to love and where you are set free in love to become the full glory of who you were made to be.
Beloved sons and daughters of God the Father
What does it mean to be beloved? It means you are cherished, precious and treasured. We get a glimpse of what this looks like watching parents gaze at their newborn child. Though the child does nothing, both Mom and Dad overflow with wonder at their little one, staggering in the awesome gift of the life entrusted to them. God the Father looks at you in the same way. When Jesus rose from the waters of his own baptism in the Jordan, the Father’s voice broke open the heavens and proclaimed with delight: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Mt 3:17). So, too, the Father sings these words over you with joyous delight, in and through each day, and into all of eternity.
St. Gregory of Nazianzus points to baptism as “God’s most beautiful and magnificent gift.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church affirms it as “the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit,”through which“we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God” (1213). Through baptism, you exchange your bonds of sin for bonds of love. You are cleansed from original sin and drawn into the promises of God’s kingdom, receiving the great inheritance of love that belongs to you as his beloved son or daughter.
You see, when you were baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, you were changed forever. God forged an eternal covenant of love between you and himself, an indissoluble bond between your heart and his. What does this mean in real time? God has spoken a definitive, personal and eternal “yes”to you and to all the deep questions of your heart: Am I loved? Seen? Known? Wanted? Good? From the cross, we hear Jesus answer us with the whole of his life: “Yes!”Regardless of how life has blessed or broken you along the way, God has spoken the first and final word on your life. Nothing can change the unique beauty and glory inscribed in you, nor your inherent worth and sacred dignity. You are good, and you are beloved of God.
A life belonging to love
Baptism establishes you in belonging. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI opened up this reality in an Easter Vigil Homily (2008), revealing that in baptism, “the Risen One comes to you and joins his life with yours, drawing you into the open fire of his love.” In effect, you belong to love and love belongs to you. This intimate grafting of your life with Christ creates in you a new center of gravity, to which God unceasingly seeks to gather you, that your life and his be brought together as one. For the Christian disciple, the question is never if God is loving, but how. The great task is not so much in doing something, as it is discerning how the Father is inviting you to receive his love in an intimate relationship of trust and vulnerability that leads to communion with him.
In baptism, you became a member of God’s family and gained access to the infinite treasury of love found in the sacramental life of the church. This means you can claim new life where you need it most. Wherever life is pinned beneath the burden of sin, Christ’s merciful love waits to set you free in the sacrament of confession. Whenever doubt and fear dull God’s promises of love, you can find him faithfully waiting in a nearby tabernacle or altar, speaking the truth he longs for your heart to hear again and again: “I am with you.”And what about when your love threatens to run dry in the daily demand of self-gift? You can look to God in faith and find his gaze of infinite love looking back at you, and here find all you need to trust, stick with him and keep loving without limits. Finally, the light of God’s Spirit is with you to anoint every step of your pilgrimage through to its final passion. Whether joy or suffering, life or death, love is there to enter in, bring meaning and carry you home.
Becoming who we are in God
A spiritual guide once invited me to set aside time in prayer to ask the Holy Spirit to help me become aware of the grace of my baptism. He then encouraged me to walk with this grace throughout my life and notice how it had been at work. What came into view was stunning. I began to realize the interior wellspring of grace created by my baptism and its powerful capacity to carve out a clear path toward truth, goodness and the more I had always hoped life held. I learned that the heart of becoming who I was made to be rested in receiving God’s love.
The grace of baptism will tirelessly seek to help you become the saint you have been made to be, precisely in and through the real circumstances of your life. Think about St. Peter. It was said he cried so many tears of repentance after betraying Christ, that the tears formed grooves in his face. And it was on this rock, on a heart that knew the depths of God’s mercy, that God in his wisdom chose to build his church. Or what about Blessed Margaret of Castello? Born disfigured and hunchbacked, she suffered the total abandonment of her parents. She could have easily despaired of her worth and value. Rather, she went to work transforming the hearts of the whole city of Castello, ennobled by the inheritance of love she claimed simply by anchoring herself in the truth that before anything else, she was God’s daughter. God wants to make of your life a living Gospel. One unique and saving. One you alone can let God write.
Baptism calls us to live from the inside out. When we do, we claim the power and potential St. Margaret Mary Alacoque realized in her own baptism: “I possess at all times and I carry in all places the God of my heart and the heart of my God.” God has made your heart his home and he desires nothing more than to fill your life to overflowing with the beauty and truth you long to live and reveal. Go out then, and give God permission.