John 3:22
“You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
I think these words are both the easiest to hear, and the hardest to hear from all of Scripture.
They are the easiest to hear, because they are spoken about Jesus. We all understand that the Father was manifesting His glory in Jesus at the time of His Baptism. We know the Dove coming down from heaven is a manifestation of the Holy Spirit. So we are not surprised to hear these words about Jesus. He is the Beloved Son of the Father. Okay. That is the easy one to hear. What is the hard one?
It is that the Father is willing to say the same thing about each one of us. Sure, we know this in some sense because of the way we have been taught our faith. But how much does it really resonate in our hearts?
I know in my own life, because of the mistakes I make, that there are times when I question whether or not I really have the Father’s love. I know, even as I say that, it sounds a little strange. But that is the result of sin. It makes us question whether or not we have the Father’s love.
It is an absolute truth that God will never stop loving us, even if we walk into hell! And this is part of the problem of sin.
It is wrong to presume on the love, mercy, and righteousness of God, however much it is always there. His love is constant, and unfailing. But he is also righteous. And in order for us to draw close to him, he needed to show us his unconditional love. That is not just in Jesus on the Cross, but it is also evident in the gift of Baptism.
With Baptism, we are no longer human beings, but we become sacred beings. Beings endowed with a change of substance in our souls. As St. Paul will say, we become coheirs with Christ.
With Baptism, God does more than just restore us to an original innocence, similar to what Adam and Eve had, and what Mary, the Mother of God, never lost. He places within us a perfectly holy, undefiled, unremovable, mark that the teaching of the church calls “an indelible mark on the soul”.
Now, this is a marvelous mystery, and is one that is, honestly, hard to keep in my mind – again, because I know my own failings. God sees us through this indelible mark on the soul. He sees us, undefiled, and holy. It is we who fail to keep this clearly in our minds and in our hearts. Because we fail, we need Reconciliation – or call it confession, if you choose…
Baptism is a bath of regeneration, it regenerates within us this original innocence that God desires to see us in. It is our failing to see this innocence as part of who we are that leads us into sin, and the need for repentance. This is why Baptism was at first done in a river, to signify the flowing, overpowering grace of God. It is why we pour the water today, in Baptism, to remind us of the flowing grace of God…
When we come to confession, and the priest raises his hand to give absolution, it is not wrong to think of the hand of the priest as being… a showerhead of this same flowing grace of God, this sanctifying grace of God, that restores us, again and again, as sons and daughters of God. It is where we hear again God saying to us, just as he did to Jesus, “you are my beloved son, you are my beloved daughter.”
So we need to understand what kind of gift of God has given to us, through Jesus and his Baptism, through our Baptism, through Confession, and also through the Eucharist.
Do you remember I said earlier that our substance is changed from just human beings to sacred beings because of Baptism? This change of substance does not happen only in Baptism. The substance of the bread and wine is changed into the body and blood of Jesus at every Eucharist.
How sacred do we treat the Eucharist? How sacred should we be treating OURSELVES because of our Baptism? How sacred should we be treating our brothers and sisters in Christ? We are coheirs with Christ!
Listen to these words from God one more time: “You are my beloved Son, You are my beloved Daughter; with you I am well pleased.” Do those words stir your hearts, even thru the midst of your failings?
Heavenly Father, the weakness of our sins has damaged OUR understanding of what you have done for us in Baptism. However, it has not changed who we are in your sight. Help us to see ourselves as you see us. Help us to see others in the same way. Help us to trust in your love and mercy, and live in your righteousness.
Give us the confidence we need today to turn to you in our time of need, that we may not be fearful, but may be confident in your ever present mercies that desire to restore us to your holiness. Help us to long to know that holiness you have placed in our souls, that we may feel it in our hearts.
For too long, in each of our lives, we have been fighting against ourselves, against what you put in us of your holiness. We are tired, Lord, of fighting against ourselves, and against you.
Because we are coheirs with Christ, help us to see ourselves as princesses and princes of your kingdom. Help us to be worthy witnesses of so great a King. And for the last time in this season: Merry Christmas. Amen.