"…heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased." Lk 3:21-22
Today's Gospel account of Jesus' Baptism is the moment of empowering acceptance for Jesus. As he begins his public ministry, Jesus is filled with the Spirit and hears, "You are my beloved…" Jesus is the beloved—not for what he does—but for who he is. With that validation, Jesus is able to fulfill his Father’s plan. It would be a plan to heal, challenge and change the human condition.
But why did Jesus want or need to be baptized? Jesus wanted to set a good example. Jesus shows us how to believe in a God who gets right down here with us—so that we can do what God wants us to do—to heal, to challenge and to change the human condition. We can’t do any of this without the empowering acceptance of love, God's love. That comes at Baptism.
Few of us can remember our Baptisms. Most of us were carried to the font, infants in the arms of our parents or godparents. Our name was given to us, our commitment was spoken for us, and our future was promised to God. That future unfolds for you now. That brings us to the question of our own Baptism. What does it mean to be loved and accepted for who I am rather than what I do?
How you answer that reaches into the core of character. Each of us will spend the rest of our lives catching up with our beginnings in Baptism. Day by day we face the tasks to make good the large promises made on our behalf. For in the end, what started at our christening needs to be validated by our personal decisions. No one leaves Baptism behind us—it faces us each day as God's expectation of us.
Like Christ, we are equally beloved of God. We are the sons and daughters with whom God the Father is well pleased. Yes, we still sin; we are in need of repentance; but the very possibility of forgiveness of sin is because of what Jesus has done for us. Through Him, we can access and share in divine life.
Two thousand years ago, Jesus stood in line for a baptism. Through the Eucharist, He still stands with you. He will meet you where you are; but he never leaves you there. So, what needs to change because you are loved and accepted by God? More gratitude; greater courage; more patience? Where do you need to bring Christ’s acceptance, Christ’s integrity or Christ’s forgiveness today?
Lord, thank you for creating me, accepting me and loving me without conditions. Help me to learn what it means to be your beloved and to express that in the manner of my life with others today. Amen.
—Fr. Thomas Powers ’73 U’19