You are my beloved: with you I am well pleased

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Homily for the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord
(Scriptures for today's Mass)

Audio for homily

Here, on the shores of the Jordan River, the baby born in Bethlehem,
now a full-grown man, takes up the work he came to do
and receives a Father’s blessing and the Spirit’s strength. 

He receives his Father’s blessing:
You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased... 

Who among us hasn’t longed for our own father’s blessing,
for our mother’s blessing, for some word, some sign, some gesture
of acceptance, of approval, of validation, of their love?

Perhaps, sadly, some of us have known the desire for such a blessing
only in its absence.

A parent’s blessing might be the greatest gift possible
after having given a child the gift of life.

And though we might not experience this as keenly,
who among us doesn’t long for God’s blessing on our lives?
God’s acceptance of us, approval of us, validation of us:
some word, some sign, some gesture of God’s love for us?

Who wouldn’t want the clouds in the skies above to part
and to hear a voice say from heaven say,
You are my beloved daughter, You are my beloved son,
with you I am well pleased…

Each of us need and wants to know that we are loved,
that our very being is something pleasing to God.

It’s so clear from today’s scripture that the Son of God,
divine and yet so fully human,
that Jesus was in need of this very blessing,
this blessed assurance of being loved by his Father. 

Here at the Jordan, with the Father’s blessing and the Spirit’s strength
Jesus shoulders the work that will be his
- and the suffering it will bring.

But this scene is more than just a hug-fest for the Trinity!

It’s a revelation of who God is, a revelation of the Father’s love not only for Jesus but for each of us as well.

What the voice from heaven says of Christ, it says of each of us.

After all, it’s in the Father's love of Jesus that God invites us to understand the love he has for all of us.

In God’s eyes: you and I are good; we are pleasing to God;
along with Christ, we are God’s beloved.
No, we’re not perfect – not even close - 
but God delights in each of us in spite of our faults.

You see, with God – love comes first.*

Before I came to be, God loved me.
When I came into the world with all my assets and liabilities
– God loved me.
Before God looks at my faults and failures – he loves me.
Before God judges me – he loves me.
And after God judges me – he loves me.
With God, love always comes first - because God IS love.

All pain and brokenness and sin (the world’s and yours and mine)
comes, in one way or another, from our not believing, not accepting,
from our doubting that we are loved by God .

So very many people doubt that they are lovable;
doubt that they are loved by others; doubt that God loves them.

When we doubt that we are loved it’s then
that we trip, stumble, fall and, often, end up
“looking for love in all the wrong places.”

Everyone of us needs the assurance of the Father’s blessing,
which is withheld from no one,
God offers each of us that blessing to help us live and love
as fully and deeply as God intends and desires.

And we are called to love and bless one another in the same way.
Before we come to know others, we are called to love them.
After we’ve come to know their assets and liabilities, 
we are to love them.
Before we label others, we are to love them.
Before we judge others, we are to love them.
Love always comes first because the God who loves us is love. 

It’s precisely in this way that we’re to understand how, in Christ, 
love is now the law.
the greatest law is that we love one another as God has loved us;
the greatest law is that I always prefer God and my neighbor
to my own wants and desires.
With God, love always comes first – that’s the law.

Today’s feast brings us from the warmth of the manger scene
and invites us to stand in the waters of the Jordan with Jesus
and to hear the voice from the heavens say to each of us:
You are my beloved son, You are my beloved daughter,
You are my beloved people: with you I am well pleased…

And if you’re sitting there right now, thinking,
“Well, maybe God says that to others, but not to me...”
listen again because God says that to every single one of us
every day of our lives,
beginning with the moment we came to be in our mother’s womb,
God has been saying over and over again:
You are my beloved ... with you I am well pleased...

And if you still doubt that voice and its word, if you don’t hear it,
then do not doubt the blessed assurance of this table
on which is laid for us the love for which we hunger
in the blessing of the Eucharist. 

For here, at the table of the Sacrament,
in the Bread and Cup of his Body and Blood,
the Lord says to each of us,
Come, sit at my table: I’ve saved a place for you,
you are my beloved, with you I am well pleased...

(*Grateful to James Martin, SJ for the theme, "love must come first")


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