This week is the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord. It is a feast that marks the end of the Christmas season for the Catholic Church. It also marks the beginning of Jesus public ministry. Jesus as an adult came to John the Baptist to be baptized. There really was no need for Jesus to be baptized, he already was living a new creation, a new self. But this is one of the times Jesus is giving witness and asking us to follow in his footsteps. This is Jesus “Walking in the Light,” our message series theme. Jesus wants his baptism to be seen as a great moment in the life of a follower and see it is a transformational event.
Last week we celebrated the feast known as the Epiphany. A celebration of Three Wise Kings following the light of Jesus to his crib, in a stable in Bethlehem. Their presence acknowledging his Kingship, a welcome to the new King they bring royal gifts. We read many places in the gospels about light, Jesus saying, “I have come as light into the world, that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness” (John 12:46) We are called to be light and to let our light shine. Our message focused on knowing the light has come and challenged us to be ready to walk in the light. Walking in the light does not mean we just let our good work show. Walking in the light let’s all we do show, though we are not perfect. When we fail as disciples we have a God who is mercy and gives strength to our vulnerabilities. Walking in the light requires we actually walk in a new way of life.
This week we are challenged again to walk in the light and let all we do show. We will read how Jesus at his baptism hears the voice of the Father proclaiming, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” This is a message God speaks to each of us as we do the work of spreading his Word and living according to his teaching. This week we will look at how we are the beloved of God. As the beloved of God we should be willing to walk in the Light. Nothing can attract people to God more than seeing our belovedness shine in the Light. When walking in the Light we are joining in fellowship with one others and with Jesus as the light that leads us all. We continue with week two of our message series, “Walk in the Light.”
The readings this week are from the Lectionary for the Baptism of the Lord; Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7; Psalms 29:1-2, 3-4, 3, 9-10; Acts 10:34-38 and Luke 3:15-16, 21-22. This week we see that a servant has come who will establish justice on the earth and God will set a covenant, becoming a light for the nations. In the old covenant God’s relationship was with a nation. Moving to the new covenant God makes baptism a sign of a new covenant with individuals, it is available to all who choose it. Choosing baptism, disciples choose to become a “new self” and God reveals they are beloved. To become a follower requires a very public declaration. It is the follower saying I am God’s son or daughter and I choose to walk in the light. God responds to each, revealing they are beloved and pleasing to God.
The first reading from Isaiah proclaims the role of God’s servant who is coming. Chosen of God and pleasing to God. This servant will bring justice through a very humble manner and will continue to spread the message of God until justice has been established. God himself will bring victory through the servant he has formed by establishing a covenant. God will be a light for all nations, open the eyes of the blind, bring liberty to captives and end all darkness. This prophecy of Isaiah was proclaimed to the nation of Israel. God hoping they could be the light that others would see and know that God is a just God. But those of us living in the new covenant can see overtures to the coming of the Son of God who ushers in a new era of justice, light, sight, freedom and the end to darkness. Several of Isaiah’s proclamations have been used in the moment they were spoken and looked back at during the ministry of Jesus to connect the old and new covenant. The overall message is clear; God wants all to be known and to be known by all. He is a light and we are challenged to humbly accept what God has to offer and be an instrument to share God’s light with others.God wants all to be known and to be known by all. Click To Tweet
In the second reading from the Acts of the Apostles we see Peter a Jew going to Cornelius a Gentile and ultimately baptizing him and his entire family. Peter preaches the story of Jesus to Cornelius and family, highlighting the baptism of Jesus by John where he received the power of the Holy Spirit. This was Peter’s first evangelization of a non-Hebrew people. It was not anything Peter thought he would be doing but was pushed in this direction through a vision from God. God very clearly lets Peter, Jesus rock upon which the church is built, know that the message of the gospels is intended for all nations, to the coastlands and beyond. It will take more discussion among the apostles to open the way of Jesus completely to Gentiles but this was a big step. This baptism of a Gentile family would have been big news, even Peter meeting them in their home would have been big news. It is God saying we walk in the light to bring about new life. Come all to see.
In the gospel of Luke we have the story of Jesus baptism. John the Baptist has been a popular figure, and when there was talk of a Messiah, people asked John if he was the Messiah. John knowing he was in place to point to one greater, would tell people he wasn’t even worthy to loosen the sandals of the one who is to come. It was in this moment that Jesus comes to John and is baptized. Remarkably in Luke’s telling of the story it seems as though Jesus was baptized as one of the crowd, maybe John does not even realize that Jesus was present. But God changes the scene dramatically. We read that the heavens opened, a form like a dove descended upon Jesus and the voice from heaven proclaimed, “You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.” We can’t be sure if this voice was heard by everyone present, or just Jesus. It may be each person was hearing this same proclamation spoken over themselves.
John had been proclaiming a baptism of repentance, people committing to change the way they lived. In this moment baptism changed, it was not a repentance, but a new life. God was establishing the new covenant. Those baptized became adopted sons and daughters of God. To initiate this change God speaks his belovedness to each one as they are baptized.
The message through these readings is God entering into humanity in a new way and he is asking for the participation of everyone. God has brought the light into the world and we are to choose this light, through baptism. Once we chose the light, we must always remain in the light, letting our light shine. We are beloved and we must live so others see our joy and want to be beloved as well. God needs all of us beloved to walk in the light so others will ask to be baptized as well.God has brought the light into the world and we are to choose this light, through baptism. Once we chose the light, we must always remain in the light, letting our light shine. Click To Tweet
The Beloved of God
Author, Priest and Spiritual Guide Henri Nouwen wrote a book entitled, “Life of the Beloved” It was written as a personal letter to his friend Fred. Henri began the writing with a chapter “Being the Beloved” which captures the essence of what it means to be the beloved. I would like to share some of his ideas.
Preparing for the writing Henri wondered, what is the one word he wanted Fred to remember when he was finished, a special word. The word that came to Henri was “beloved.” Most Christians first hear of this word in the story of the Baptism of Jesus, when the voice from heaven proclaims, “You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.”
Henri read these words for many years, reflected upon them in sermons and lectures, but it was only in relationship with his friend Fred that they had taken on meaning far beyond the boundaries of his faith tradition. Henri through many conversations with Fred has come to the inner conviction that the words, “You are my beloved” revealed the most intimate truth about all human beings, whether they belong to a faith tradition or not.
Henri wants to tell Fred, he is the beloved, hoping Fred will receive the words with all tenderness and force that love can hold. Henri wants these words to fill and reverberate in Fred in every corner of his being – “You are the beloved.”
The greatest gift Henri’s friendship with Fred can give is belovedness. But it can only be given as a gift insofar as Henri has claimed it for himself. Henri questions; “Isn’t this what friendship is all about, giving each other the gift of our belovedness?”“Isn’t this what friendship is all about, giving each other the gift of our belovedness?” Click To Tweet
There is that voice, the voice that speaks from above and from within that whispers softly or declares loudly: “You are my beloved, with you I am well pleased.” It is not easy to hear this voice in a world filled with voices that shout: you are no good, you are ugly, you are worthless, you are despicable, you are nobody, unless you prove the opposite.
The negative voices are loud and persistent, it becomes easy to believe them. That is the trap, a trap of self-rejection. Success, popularity, power can indeed present a great temptation, but these are temptations trying to cover the larger temptation of self-rejection. It is too easy to believe the voice that calls you worthless and unlovable, then use power, success and popularity as attractive solutions to overcoming the voices. But there is always self-refection, it is surprising how easily we give into this temptation. As soon as someone accuses us or criticizes us we think, well that proves once again I am nobody. Rather than look at the circumstance and try to understand our own limitations, we tend to blame ourselves, not just for what we did but for who we are. Our dark side rears its ugly voice telling us, “I am no good. I deserve to be pushed aside, forgotten, rejected and abandoned.”
Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts that sacred voice calling us the beloved. Being the beloved expresses the core truth of who we are, of our existence. We sometimes refuse to hear the voice that speaks to the very depth of our being, saying, “You are my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts that sacred voice calling us the beloved. Being the beloved expresses the core truth of who we are, of our existence. Click To Tweet
God speaks of our belovedness first, hoping we will take becoming the beloved into everything we think, say or do, that it becomes a truth that is part of us, that we can’t think of ourselves without thinking we are beloved. God speaks it to us first because God knows us and Gods knows we need to hear we are beloved. We need to accept our belovedness, and we need to reveal it.
Becoming a member of the family of God, becoming God’s beloved requires that we reveal it to others. We like Henri must reveal belovedness in our friendships. We must walk in the light of our belovedness so others will know being a child of God is more than just a title. Becoming the beloved of God means we are to reach out to others and let them know they too can become beloved, they too can hear God’s voice saying to them, “You are my beloved, in whom I am well pleased.”
In our daily existence we must claim our belovedness and we must reveal it to others. We take our cue from Jesus. That day he had to feel such pride in knowing that God reached down and spoke to him about his belovedness. Jesus also knew it was part of his mission to pass it along. God is a God who wants everyone to know how much he loves them and that they are the beloved. In creating every person, God put this imprint into them, that they are the beloved and that they will search until they discover this belovedness. Nothing will satisfy the search, not things, not money, not pleasure, only knowing our belovedness in the eyes of God will bring us peace, and allow us to live without chasing something we can only find when we rest in the one who calls us beloved.
Being a follower of Jesus, being the beloved of God requires we reveal to others, to our friends, they too have a Father who thinks of them as the beloved. No matter what the world speaks into their lives, nothing can remove our Father’s repetitious voice speaking, “You are my beloved, in whom I am well pleased.No matter what the world speaks into their lives, nothing can remove our Father’s repetitious voice speaking, “You are my beloved, in whom I am well pleased. Click To Tweet
Walk in the light
We are challenged to walk in the light. That light has come, it is Jesus who gave his all for all. Jesus’ coming reveals much about the Father. Jesus reveals the Father’s love for us, and that the Father calls us the beloved. We, like Jesus need to let this be reveled through us. Claiming our belovedness we must walk in the light so others will see they too are beloved. They too can hear a voice form heaven telling them how beloved they are and how important they are to their Father who created them. We must let this light of belovedness shine for all to see and for all to desire to discover their own belovedness. This is what Jesus did after hearing from God and we must take our example for him.
As disciples we are always required to live in such a way that others see us and want to glorify God. It is not easy and it requires service, putting others first and walking in the light. But what can be easy is telling others they are the beloved, be a voice drowning out all the negative voices of the world. Encourage others and reveal to them their beauty. Through our love for God we can extend a voice of encouragement to others. Trusting in our belovedness we can share love so others will be encouraged to find God and walk in the light.As disciples we are always required to live in such a way that others see us and want to glorify God. Click To Tweet