The Baptism of the Lord that we celebrate today marks the beginning of Jesus’s public ministry. It was after this that he would go out into the desert for the forty days and then returns to Galilee to begin preaching. And the end of this gospel that we heard was a beautiful line that is worth praying with: “you are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Now I want you to take a step back for a minute and think about the larger picture of the entire story of Jesus’s life… his ministry, his preaching, his miracles, his suffering and death, his resurrection… all of it. When in his life’s story would it make sense for the Father to say “I am well pleased with you”?
The obvious answer would be at the end, right? When Jesus is in the garden before his passion and says, “Not my will Father but yours”, that might have been a good moment for the Father to say “I am pleased with you.” Or maybe after some of his preaching and healing, his feeding of the multitude, that might have been a good moment for the Father to say “I am pleased with you.” That’s what we expect because we are very used to being judged by others, even those who love us and want us to succeed. A parent tells us how proud they are after we have accomplished some major life goal. A teacher tells us how good we did after a difficult test. An employer tells us how valuable we are after seeing the result of our work. We ourselves, even, internally think of our lives as success or failure based on how we lived up to the values and dreams and expectations that we personally have.
But that’s not how God interacts with us. That’s not how God loves. God loves at the beginning. The Father tells the Son “I am well pleased” before any of the preaching and teaching and miracles and suffering because that’s who the Father and the Son are. God looks at you and he looks at me, and before there is a single thought or consideration of anything that we have done in our lives, good or bad, God looks and says, “I love you.” His heart for us is love. So everything that we chose to do here together is a response. Holiness is not about earning God’s love and favor, it is about responding to God’s love and favor.
Your response – your holiness – began firstly with your own baptism. In baptism we are joined to the life of Christ, that is the first moment when explaining who you are depends on knowing who Jesus Christ is. And you have repeatedly throughout your life returned to those baptismal promises and repeated them at Easter, at other baptisms, at Confirmation… and God willing on your deathbed if you have the grace of a death that you can prepare for… throughout your life you repeat that fundamental choice of holiness, responding to God’s love by rejecting sin and professing our faith in Jesus Christ.
Every time that you walk through these doors to enter into prayer and the presence of God and you dip your hand in the holy water, remember that baptism. Remember that God has a heart of love for you, and you are just trying to give that love back in response.
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Homilies are meant to be heard, not read… and part of the Eucharistic liturgy, not words that stand alone. Please remember that no homily is written with this blog in mind.