Whenever I celebrate the sacrament of baptism, I’m struck by the way the ritual begins. The priest or deacon asks a simple question of the parents: “What name do you give your child?” As I explain to parents during baptism preparation class, this harkens back to Genesis, when Adam gave names to God’s creation. Parents, in this moment, effectively continue what God began, becoming collaborators in God’s creation.
In the context of another baptism, today’s Gospel also has echoes of Genesis. “Who are you?” the people ask John the Baptist.
John doesn’t describe himself as a prophet or a preacher. He understands he is preparing the way for someone else. He knows he has something specific to do. But what about us? Encountering this passage, we might ask ourselves: “Who am I?” How do I fit into God’s plan? How do I see myself? Am I a voice? Am I a witness? Am I merely a spectator in the story of salvation? Or am I a disciple compelled to act—to give, to love, to proclaim, to sacrifice?
This moment in time, on the second day of a new year, is itself a kind of Genesis. The Church gives us a reading that challenges us to think about new beginnings—for ourselves and for our lives as Christians in community. It’s a time to continue in our own way God’s creative work. Who are we? Who do we want to be?