How are baptism and Lent connected? There is a saying in Spanish that can be translated to read something like this “tell me who you’re with and I will tell you who you are.” This saying will help us understand the connection between Jesus’ Baptism and his time of temptation in the desert, since both have to do with who he is. In all three synoptic gospels (Mark, Matthew and Luke) we read that before Jesus begins his ministry he first goes to get baptized by John. After his baptism, he then goes into the desert where he is tempted by the devil. How are Jesus’ baptism and his time in the desert related? The connection between the two can be found in what happens at the end of the baptism.
In Mark 1:11 we hear a voice calling out from heaven, which says: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Likewise, in Matthew 3:17 we read that there was a voice from heaven which said: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” The Father asserts his love for his beloved son and this assertion gives meaning to everything Jesus does. Jesus is the Father’s delight and his identity is wrapped around his relationship with his Father. The scriptures tell us that the spirit lead Jesus into the desert, not despite his mission but as the very beginning of his mission. He is sent into the desert to encounter the temptations that rule men’s hearts (hunger, power and safety), but he confronts these temptations with the trust that he is loved by the Father. The period of temptation and trial is anticipated by one of grace and affirmation in the baptismal experience.
As Christians we walk the Lenten journey following Christ into the desert, but often we forget how this journey begins. It does not begin with promises of grand penances or change, it begins by asserting how much we need the Lord and the Lord asserting how much he wants to be with us. This synergy of God and man culminates in the Easter Mystery, from which we draw our ultimate hope to die with Christ so we can rise with him. In Pope Benedict XVI’s Lenten Message of 2011 he offered the following words on what happened at the moment of our baptism: “we “become sharers in Christ’s death and Resurrection”, and there began for us “the joyful and exulting adventure of his disciples”.
Like Jesus, let us recall the affirmation we received at the moment of our baptism, in which the Lord asserted in us the following words: “In Jesus, my son, you have become my beloved child and I will lead you into the desert of penance so that you may remember who you are meant to be.” Lent is a time of renewal to seek out our life mission based on this baptismal identity as adopted sons and daughters of the Father.