Homily for January 13

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

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 his Father’s blessing and the Holy 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 and appreciated
our own father’s and mother’s blessing?
Who hasn’t hoped for, waited for, looked for
some word, some sign, some gesture
of our parents’ acceptance, approval and validation, of their love?

Perhaps, sadly, some of us have known the desire for such a blessing
but haven’t experienced its realization.

Indeed, a parent’s blessing
might be the greatest gift a parent can offer
after having given a child the gift of life itself.

And 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 clouds to part and the skies above to open up
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 needs and wants to know that we are loved
by our parents, our families, our friends and colleagues
and each us needs and wants to know
that our very being is something pleasing to God.

It’s so clear from today’s scripture that Jesus,
fully divine and yet also so fully human,
that Jesus, the Son of God, was in need of this very same 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 takes on the suffering it will bring.

The import of this riverside scene is the revelation
of who Jesus is in relationship to God
and it makes possible everything that will follow after.

And in a real way, the same is true for you and me.
My deepest life, your deepest life doesn’t begin, can’t truly begin
until we come to understand who we are – in relationship to God.

- It’s primarily my relationship to God
(not to my parents, my spouse, my family, my children or my friends)
but rather my relationship to God
that ultimately defines who I am as a human being.

- It’s my relationship to God,
(not my talents, not my job, not my wealth)
but rather my relationship to God that gives my life its fullest meaning.

- It’s my relationship with God
(not my dreams and plans, not my education and career path)
but rather my relationship with God that will reveal
my life’s greatest purpose.

- My relationship with God
is the most important relationship I’ll ever have in life: bar none.

This feast of the Baptism of the Lord,
coming as it does at the beginning of a new year,
is a golden opportunity for each of us to review:
our relationship with God.

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. Love comes first…
And when we fail that love,
when we reject that love, when we abuse or ignore that love
what comes second from God is - mercy.

First there is love - then there is mercy.

• 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 the pain and brokenness, all the sin in the world
all the sin in my life and yours, 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 - at all;
doubt that they are loved by others; doubt that God loves them.

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

Every one of us needs the assurance of the Father’s blessing,
which God the Father withholds 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 us to live and love.

And we are called to love and bless one another in the same way.

Before we get to know others, we are called to love them -
even before we know them.

After we’ve come to know their assets and liabilities,
we are called to love them.

Before we label others, we are called to love them.

Before we judge others, we are called to love them.

Love always comes first because the God who loves us - is love.

It’s precisely in this way
love is now the law.
Love is the law: we are bound to love one another.

The greatest of God’s laws is that we love God
and 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 desire.
With God, love always comes first – that’s the law.

Today’s feast brings us far from the warmth of the manger scene
and invites us to stand in the cold waters of the Jordan with Jesus
and to hear that 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.
Since that moment God has been telling each of us,
over and over again:
You are my beloved ... with you I am well pleased...

If I fail to hear such words from God in my heart, in my prayer,
then perhaps 2019 is a year for me to work
on the most important relationship in my life:
my relationship with God.

And if you still doubt that voice and its word of love is for you
-then don’t 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…


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