Sometimes somebody important to us says something to us that we never forget: a parent or family member, a friend, a teacher. At various times and places, the words play back for us and give us insight, confidence, or pause when we are in a particular situation. Perhaps, especially, words that we have from our parents carry this special weight.
I was thinking of this in terms of Jesus and the experience of his Baptism. This is the very beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. He is just about to embark on the apostolate that will characterize his life. He has taken his place on line with all the others who seek John’s baptism. John does not want to baptize him because he feels unworthy.
After the Baptism, Jesus hears these words:
“You are my beloved Son;
with you I am well pleased.”
What wonderful words—words which any child would be thrilled to hear from a parent.
Now, this occurs before Jesus has done anything. He is about to start his life’s work, and he is affirmed in this powerful way. “You are my beloved Son; I am well pleased with you.”Perhaps, this is the point: the Father’s love for Jesus is not something that is earned, something that is won or lost, but something that is given freely and permanently and without qualification. Jesus knew that he was loved by the Father, but having it said so clearly and so boldly deepens its truth on a human level. Jesus knew that he was loved. Nevertheless, it needed to be said aloud and heard distinctly.
When Jesus spoke of the Father, he spoke about him in that deep way which reflected the Father’s love for all his children. He is the welcoming parent who wants all his children to come home and be with him forever.
What a wonderful and powerful gift it is that the Father gives Jesus on the day of his Baptism: the assurance that the Father loved him and stood by him.
At our Baptism, God speaks those same words to each of us: “You are my beloved child. I am pleased with you.” We need to hear those words and allow them to guide our lives, just as Jesus did. It makes an enormous amount of difference to know that the Father loves us unconditionally and forever. No matter what we do, God loves us. No matter how far we stray, God stays with us. We do not earn God’s love and we can never lose it. It seems so simple to say, but it is the truth. We need to say it and hear it and believe it. It makes all the difference in the world for how we live.
When we get up in the morning and know that we are loved, the day starts out on the right foot; when we go to bed at night and realize that it was not a great day, we can tell ourselves that we are still loved by God, so how bad could it be.
The story of the Baptism of Jesus reminds us of that truth in his life and what a difference it made. Let us grasp that truth for ourselves. Remember how God whispered to us on the day of our Baptism: you are my beloved child, I am pleased with you. We may have forgotten that. Let us pray that our memory be jogged so that we live as and treat one another as God’s beloved children. People on whom God’s favor rests.