Updated: Jan 8, 2021
We are still celebrating the feast of Christmas! This is the last of the 3 Sundays celebrating the light coming into the world, celebrating God becoming human, one of us. For the first two Sundays of Christmas, we heard about Jesus as a baby, but now, in the Gospel for this Sunday, we hear about Jesus as a grown man.
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.
We can hear three "J" words there, Jesus, John, and Jordan. Jesus--of course, we know him! John is Jesus' cousin. He is a grown man, too. He baptizes people, so we call him John the Baptist. But he doesn't baptize people in a church the way people are baptized today. He stands in the Jordan river and people wade out to him. Jesus wades out to John standing in the Jordan river. John dunks Jesus under the water. When he stands up again, Jesus is baptized!
What happens at Jesus' baptism?
And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him.
The heavens are torn apart! They are opened wide! How bright that must be! God, who seems hidden, can be seen! Jesus sees the Spirit of God coming down like a dove.
A dove is a bird. Is St. Mark telling us that the Holy Spirit is a bird?? No. He says the Holy Spirit comes down like a dove. A dove is pure white, no darkness in it. It is beautiful and does not hurt anybody. When people think of doves, they think of peace.
And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
Whose voice is that? Of course! It is God's. God, who seems hidden, can be heard.
God speaks directly to Jesus. Jesus hears God say that he is God's own child. And God calls him by a new name. God calls him "the Beloved."
Be Loved. That is who Jesus is. Loved by God.
God loves Jesus so much. God loves so strongly--so abundantly--that the heavens are torn apart and Jesus can actually see God's love! That beautiful, peaceful thing that comes down on Jesus like a dove--could that be the love of God? Could the Spirit of God Be Love???
Jesus is baptized when he is a grown man, but most of us are baptized when we are babies. Most of us cannot even remember our baptism. Maybe what happens at Jesus' baptism can help us know what happened at our baptism.
We did not stand in a river to be baptized, but there was water. Holy water--filled with the Holy Spirit--was poured over our heads. We could feel the water dripping off of us.
I wonder, when we were baptized, were the heavens torn apart? Could God be seen? Does God love us that much, too?
A candle was lit for us from the bright Paschal candle, the candle for the abundant life and love of God. Everyone could see how bright that light is. And we wore a garment that was pure white, with not a speck of darkness in it. God who seems hidden inside of us, could be seen in the Light and the White Garment.
Could we hear God, too, like Jesus does at his Baptism? Does God love us that much, too?
At our baptism, a voice spoke words. At my baptism the voice spoke these words: "Paula, I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." What was the first word I heard? My name. What was the first word you heard at your baptism?
We were called by name. It was the priest who spoke these words at our baptism. But what do we know about the Good Shepherd?
He calls his own sheep by name (John 10:3b)
It is the Good Shepherd calls by name! Could it be that at our baptism we heard the voice of the Good Shepherd calling our name? God, who seems hidden inside of us, could be heard in the Word spoken at our baptism.
And if we heard our name being called, I wonder if we could also hear, deep down in our hearts, the voice of God saying, "You are my child, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased." Be Loved.
I think we did. Because that is who we are. Loved by God.