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You Are My Beloved

January 9, 2022

A reflection for the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, Year C. The readings are Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7; Psalm 29 ; Acts 10:34-38 and Luke 3:15-16, 21-22.

The central figures of the Baptism of the Lord tapestries by John Nava, at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, in Los Angeles.

After a few weeks of looking at what happened when Jesus was a baby, we skip ahead several years to when he was an adult. But today, Jesus, as an adult, does something that most of us did as babies: He was baptized. Remember the 3rd Sunday of Advent? That’s when we heard the beginning of today’s Gospel. That’s when the people asked John the Baptist what they should do and he said to be kind, generous, polite and nice? Remember? Then they all got baptised.

And Jesus also got baptised.

We’ve heard the story so many times: Jesus was baptised, the heavens were opened, the Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove and a voice was heard, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” But, there are a few differences in the version from the Gospel of Luke that we heard today and there are three brief lessons that I want to share with you today that we learn from the way Luke tells the story.

 First: Luke says, “After Jesus was baptized, while He was praying…” Remember that. This year we are reading the Gospel of Luke and I want you to pay attention to all the times that you hear that Jesus was praying. That’s going to be our homework for the whole year while we read the Gospel of Luke. And maybe, since Jesus praying is so important in Luke, maybe we can make a point of spending more time in prayer ourselves. Maybe that can be our new year’s resolution. Let’s spend more time in prayer this year. If you don’t know where to start or what else you can do, let me know and I’ll give you some ideas.

Second: Luke says, “After Jesus was baptized, while He was praying the heavens are opened and the Holy Spirit descends in the form of a dove and a voice (presumably God’s) is heard : You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased. God says to Jesus, “You are my beloved, with you I am well pleased.” I don’t why God had to tell Jesus he was his beloved Son or if Jesus needed to know He was God’s beloved – maybe. Or maybe that was a manifestation to all the other people who were there. We don’t know who heard that voice. We also don’t know why Jesus was baptised.  He didn’t have to. But I am going to suggest that Jesus was baptised so that He would institute Baptism as a Sacrament – so that from then on, at every Baptism, the heavens would be opened and the voice of God would be heard: you are my beloved son, you are my beloved daughter; with you I am well pleased. That’s what happens at every baptism.

In fact, that’s what happens at every Sacrament.

When you were baptised, the heavens were opened and the Holy Spirit came down and God said, “You are my beloved child; with you I am well pleased.” Our opening prayer (collect) today says something interesting: “God, who, when Christ had been baptised in the River Jordan and as the Holy Spirit descended upon him, solemnly declared him your beloved Son, grant that your children by adoption, reborn of water and the Holy Spirit, may always be well pleasing to you.” What a beautiful prayer that summarizes our Gospel reading so well. But, why are we children by adoption if we are God’s beloved children? We’re not really. All of us are children of God, baptised or not. But, because of Original Sin, we have lost the benefits – if I can call them that – the privileges or the rights, of being sons and daughters of God. We’ve lost our access to the inheritance. But, through baptism, and because of baptism through all the other Sacraments, our access to the inheritance has been restored. So, it is like we weren’t children of God because we had no rights to the inheritance and with baptism it’s like we’ve been adopted. The language of “adoption” comes from St. Paul who uses that language because that’s what people in his time would have understood, but it is more appropriate to say that we, as children, had lost access to the inheritance – eternal life – and now, that access has been restored- so it’s like we are reborn. Which is why at baptism, the heavens are opened and the Father’s voice is heard: “You are my beloved child; with you I am well pleased.” And the access is restored because we are baptised in Jesus Christ, who loved us so much that He took our place, so that we would not die, but instead, have eternal life. Remember that: That’s how much God loves you, the beloved: He loves you enough to die for you.

The third thing I want you to remember today – maybe the most important – is: Luke says, “After Jesus was baptized… This doesn’t happen while Jesus is being baptised. All this happened AFTER Jesus was baptised. Something happens when you are baptised. Something happens with all the Sacraments, but it continues to happen after, as we live the Sacraments. Which is why receiving the Sacraments is good, but it’s not enough. We have to live the Sacraments.

When you are baptised the heavens are opened and the Holy Spirit came down, but when you live your baptism, the heavens continue to be opened and the Holy Spirit continues to come down. When you receive the Eucharist, the heavens are opened and the Spirit comes down. Christ is made present. And God’s voice is heard. But when we go out there and live the Eucharist; when we live as Eucharistic people, the heavens also open and God’s voice is heard, “You are my beloved; with you I am well pleased.” When we receive the Sacrament of Marriage, the heavens are opened, the Holy Spirit comes down and Christ is made present, but when we live the Sacrament of Marriage – when a husband looks as his wife, when a wife looks at her husband and they say, “I am going to put your needs before mine all the time, no matter what”, that’s living your marriage vows – the heavens are opened, the Holy Spirit comes down and Christ is made present and the Father’s voice is heard: You are my beloved; with you I am well pleased.

And when we live our baptism, which really means that we live as Christians, the heavens are opened. How do we live our baptism? We do what the Prophet Isaiah says in the first reading, we proclaim justice and liberty to captives; we bring light to those who are in darkness. We do what Peter tells Cornelius and his family in the second reading, “do what is right”. We do what Jesus said: we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit those who are sick and in prison – we do what John the Baptist said to do: be kind, be generous, be polite, and be nice. We pray more. (That’s what we’re going to do this year.) We live as followers of Jesus Christ. When we do that, we are living our baptism and the heavens are opened and the Holy Spirit comes down and the Fathers voice is heard: You are my beloved son, you are my beloved daughter, with you I am well pleased.

We celebrate the birth of Christ and we also celebrate his baptism. We celebrate our own birthdays too, but do you celebrate your baptism day? Do you even know when you were baptised? Do you know where you were baptised? That’s our homework this week. Find out when and where you were baptised. And then make a point of celebrating your baptism day. May that be a reminder at least once a year, of that day when the heavens were opened, the Holy Spirit came down and God said to you: “You are my beloved son, you are my beloved daughter; with you I am well pleased.”

And then go live as a child of God.

From → English

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