Baptism of the Lord C

Well, last week we had vicar camp. It was titled something else but we all settled around the idea of camp.  We had great discussions around what our role should be and how best we could serve the diocese and the Bishop.  It looks like the job will primarily be to develop relationships and share what is working in parishes.  The ideal is to advance the new evangelization.

And perhaps because I do not trust the Holy Spirit enough, I asked at the end of our time together, “What are the measurables here? How do we know if we are doing our job?”  And without hesitation, the Bishop said you will know you are doing your job if people really know that they are loved by God and their lives are really changed by the love of Jesus Christ.  That actually sounds like a pretty cool job description.

Which brings us to this great Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. After Jesus is baptized in the Jordan River and is praying, the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove descends upon him and a voice cries out from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”  Could the voice from heaven also been talking to each one of us?

I mean you could argue that what God said has nothing to do with us and speaks only of Jesus. There is no doubt that the relationship between Father and Son is unique and the words spoken after the baptism certainly mean something more true about Jesus than about us.  Jesus is the eternal Word of God who has taken flesh.  Their relationship is God to God.

Yet, we cannot turn our back to the incarnation whose very reason is to relate us more closely to Christ. It is not as if his time on earth was Jesus’ Spring Break from heaven.  The purpose was to open the relationship that God has with the Son to all of us.

You can also argue that God has many reasons not to be as pleased with us as God is with Jesus.   Jesus is sinless and wholly devoted to the mission of the Father.  We are sinful and distracted.  But God sees above and through our sins.  To think that God judges us by our sins is to deny mercy, which Pope Francis calls God’s calling card.  His new book is called “The Name of God is Mercy.”  If God is truly merciful, it is reasonable to say that we are included in what God says to Jesus in the Jordan.

Perhaps the incarnation allows God to say through the Son what the Father has always wanted to tell his children. That we are beloved.  That in us, God is well pleased.  One of the Prefaces of the mass explains that Jesus came, “so that you might love in us what you have loved in your son.”  God sees us through the prism of his Son’s overwhelming love for us.  Isn’t that incredible?

If this is true, if we are really the beloved of God with whom God is well is pleased, then we have to think of ourselves differently. We have to let go of our self-perception of being limited to what is wrong with us or how we have failed.  We have to believe that in our own baptism, the obstacles to God’s love were washed away.  And we are truly loved:  Unconditionally, without fail and all the time.

So let us live our lives on fire with that love. Let us surrender our fear to live in the freedom God has wanted us to know and experience.  Imagine living without doubting love, without focusing on what is wrong with us but knowing we were built for the beautiful.  Imagine how strong we become, how caring we are, how ready to serve we will be when we know that our God is in love with us.

So no longer live the lie. Know the truth of how your God feels about you; what your creator knows about you.  You are loved and nothing can take that away from you.  God has not and could never reject you so no longer hide in the shade and march in the sunlight.  We are beloved.  Our God is well pleased in us.