THE BAPTISM OF THE LORD
isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7; acts 10:34-38; luke 3:15-16, 21-22
i don’t remember the first time i walked, but it was probably something like this: i stood with my mother; my father was three steps away. i set out, wobbling and stumbling, but made it from one set of arms to the other on my own. then perhaps my father lifted me high in the air with great joy as if i were the first human to walk. after numerous hugs and exclamations, i must have felt like the most loved, greatest boy in the world.
after some time i could walk with more assurance and grace… but i didn’t receive much praise. in fact, i can’t remember the last time someone praised me for walking across a room. so i had to do other things to get back to that feeling of being valued, of being picked up with delight, of being affirmed and loved [cf. martin copenhaver, «whispered in your ear»].
so it goes on through life! we don’t have too many experiences of unconditional love, and so we try to create conditions which will make people love us. but we forget that if people love us for our achievements, it is not love!
on the feast of the LORD’s baptism, we celebrate the unconditional love of the father for his beloved son.
the gospel ends with the words: «you are my beloved son; with you i am well pleased.» since it comes at the beginning of JESUS’ ministry, this affirmation is not conditioned upon JESUS’ achievements, but is a sign of the father’s total and unconditional love for his son.
the first reading is one of isaiah’s servant songs. GOD calls, forms and commissions the servant for a specific mission. but the emphasis is not on the mission but on GOD’s love for his chosen.
the father who loved and affirmed his son unconditionally at his baptism does the same for us, his beloved sons and daughters, at our baptism. GOD values you and me not because of our achievements, but because we are his beloved. all that we have to do is to listen to him affirm us!
having said that, human as we are, we need to hear this declaration of love often (JESUS needed to hear that affirmation again at the transfiguration). you and i need to love and affirm one another. this is a concrete way of living out our baptism… by sharing and communicating our experience of GOD’s love for us.
am i aware that i am a beloved son/daughter of GOD? have i experienced GOD’s love for me in a concrete and tangible way? and do i share that experience with others so that they, too, may experience his love for them?