“I am my father’s son.” Sidney Poitier (1927-2022), revered actor, producer, and director, proudly claimed this as his guiding principle in life. Poitier was the first Black actor to win a competitive Oscar, for his 1963 performance in Lilies of the Field. Whatever tough decisions he faced, Poitier never cut corners that would compromise his integrity.
For example, early in his career, Poitier was offered a role playing a father who witnesses a crime. When the culprits murder his daughter to ensure his silence, the father bows to their will and keeps quiet. Poitier rejected the role, despite desperately needing the money. He reflected: “I can’t play that because I have a father. And I know my father would never be like that. And as a father myself, I would never be able to not attack those gangsters. I want to do movies that show who I am as a human being. Who I am is my father’s son. I saw how he treated my mother and family. I know how to be a decent human being.”
We, too, are sons and daughters of a good Father. The Church launched into Ordinary Time, a few days ago, just having celebrated the Baptism of the Lord; Mark’s Gospel for this feast reads: “On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased’” (1:10-11).
Our chaplain, preaching on this passage, pointed out that, because we are baptized into Christ, we become by grace what He is by nature: I am a daughter of God. This means that what the Father speaks to the Son in the presence of the Spirit, He also speaks to me: “You are my beloved daughter.” Then He says what is better translated as, “I delight in you,” or, reminiscent of Genesis, “I judge you good” (1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31). What God judges good is good, because God’s judgment is true. This is not a denial of the possibility of sin but an affirmation of the goodness of my existence and my capacity for sanctity.
It is from this identity as beloved sons and daughters that we must act daily. If we dwell confidently in our identity, we will freely choose the true, the good, and the beautiful. And when we reach the end of our lives, we will be able to echo Pope Benedict XVI’s last comprehensible words, “Lord, I love you.” Like the Peter who confessed, “Lord, you know that I love you,” we are repentant sinners, and we profess our love boldly because we rest peacefully in the knowledge that He first loved us (John 21:15-17; 1 John 4:19).
Sr. Maria Veritas Marks is a member of the Ann Arbor-based Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.