By Fr Joachim Robert
Titus 2:11-14, 3:4-7
Theme: Baptism is a Renewal of Covenant
As we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord, we celebrate the conclusion of our Christmas Season.
On Christmas Day, we had the child which was born at the stable and the infant King, the infant child, was able to come into the world to be present among men. And after the whole Christmas time was over, then we celebrated Epiphany, the manifestation of who God is revealed to us. And there too we see the revelations for God, of how he works in human history, in coming to bring about His love of salvation to the world.
And today, that infant child grows up and now Jesus is being baptised in the River Jordan to prepare him for the public ministry to proclaim the kingdom of God, to proclaim the Good News of repentance, to proclaim that God continues to dwell among them.
And as we look at the life of Jesus, dear friends, it grew gradually, humanly speaking, into the awareness of who he is, acknowledging the love of God for him before he moved on to his public ministry and later towards the Cross and his gradual revelation of coming to understand the identity, the love the Father has for him as he begins his mission outwards.
And as Jesus immerses himself in the water, I invite you, dear friends, to look at your own life as well, from where you were, growing in your maturity of your spiritual life, coming into this awareness of God’s love for you and then what is God’s mission in your life.
In the same way, dear friends, whenever we acknowledge how God has been revealing himself through significant and insignificant moments of our lives, we come to realise that God is among us. And you and I, dear friends, some of us were baptised whenever we were infants, some of us whenever we were a child, some of us whenever we were adults. But these baptisms, dear friends, need to be revisited again and again and we need to immerse ourselves in the experience of baptism so that we can configure ourselves more and more in the likeness of Jesus as he leads us forward to where we are called to be.
And today’s Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, is a reminder that all of us are called to participate in this life that God gives us, a life of union with him, a life of growing in this awareness of His love for us which he leads us out towards mission. The question is how can we participate in this mission of Christ that is expressed in the Church.
And one of the words that caught my attention today, from the Gospel, was that ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on you.’
Each time at our own baptisms, dear friends, this invitation of God that you are His beloved, that His favour rests on you, continues to resound again and again. And we need to embrace that reality because whenever we acknowledge the love and the mercy of God in our lives, that we are loved, that His favour rests on us, we like Jesus can embrace the crosses that comes along our lives with fervent hope and confident of the faithfulness of God.
And as we look at the words that has been expressed, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on you,’ and as God expresses that you are His beloved, you and I are His beloved, He says ‘I love you.’ And whenever He says, ‘I love you,’ it is an invitation for you to open your heart towards him and to receive that love that God wants to give you. He says, ‘You are my son, you are my daughter, the beloved.’ From all of the people around the world, God has chosen you as His beloved. He zooms on His love on you and He invites you to love.
And the second thing, dear friends, that we need to reflect upon is those words ‘My favour rests on you.’ Whenever God says ‘My favour rests on you’, He says ‘I have given everything that you need to become a disciple of Christ.’ Each one of us, dear friends, God’s favour is on us and all the necessary graces that we require to carry on this journey of life in this mission that He has entrusted to us has been given to us because His favour is on us.
And for example,, whenever we receive the invitation to love, whenever we are loved, we allow God to embrace us, we allow God to overwhelm us because of His deep love for us, makes us propel and moves us in the direction that He wants for us.
For example, when you say the Father and the Son, or the mother and daughter relationship, sometimes in our families we have a child who feels the need to seek approval from the parents, seek affirmation from the parents. And sometimes the child needs to behave in a certain way so that they can be accepted in our families. But these highlights, dear friends, what is lacking. This highlights that we, our love for one another, is imperfect and is not like how God loves us.
But if a child knows that they are loved, if a child knows that they are favoured, then whatever that you do the child continues to embrace that love that is given to them and they flourish more and more in the wisdom of God’s love and grace. Because, dear friends, the love that we have for one another need not be one that seeks approval. A love that we have for one another needs to be embraced and it needs to be full.
And as we look at today’s Gospel once again, that ‘You are my son, you are my daughter, the Beloved; my favour rests on you.’ Because each time we experience those kind of love, dear friends, from God, it continues to define our identity of who we are as a child of God. And if we can embrace that, just like how Jesus embraced the love the Father has for him, having acknowledged, he was able to move on his mission to embrace the crosses in his life, whether it is joys or sorrows, in order to fulfil the Father’s will. And that was his mission by the Father for him.
And you and I, dear friends, are called to participate in that mission, to build His kingdom here on earth. We may have crosses in our lives, we may have challenges but the Lord continues to acknowledge His presence among us. He tells us that ‘You are my Son, you are my Daughter, the Beloved; my favour rests on you’
And as we grow in the awareness of God’s love, dear friends, we are given this opportunity to say ‘YES’ to His love, to acknowledge that I and you are His beloved son and daughter, and that His favour is on us. And because of God’s love for us, we can continue to show our love for God in whatever circumstances that we are faced with.
And for me, as I was reflecting on this Gospel text, my 30-day retreat in Chiang Mai came to mind, of that God-moment that I had together with God during the retreat. And during that time, the 30 days retreat, after few weeks, I was restless, restless not knowing what to do and not knowing whether this was God’s call for me to become a priest. But in those restlessness, dear friends, I went around finding space, finding areas where I can sit down and pray. I found myself seated under a big tree but there were so many leaves all around me. As I opened my bible, one small little leaf dropped on my bible and these words of scripture, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on you,’ pointed out towards me. In that time, dear friends, I felt a deep love from God for myself. And that has made me realise that this mission that God has called me, I need to continue to embrace that love again and again and again, and I need to say my ‘YES’ to Him at each and every moment of the day.
And this is only one experience, dear friends. I am sure each one of you have many, many, many different experiences of God in your lives, many God-moments of life that you have encountered. So treasure those moments, treasure those experiences because they continue to make you say ‘YES’ to God. They continue to make you grow in a relationship, grow in the love that the Father has for you, to die to our past life, to die to our past sins and to embrace the
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