Tuesday, January 4, 2011

My Beloved Son

Reflections on the Readings
The Baptism of the Lord - January 9, 2011 - Year A
By Dennis S. Hankins

My Beloved Son

And lo, a voice from heaven, saying, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased."

Jesus comes to John to be baptized. Yet John the Baptist expresses his need to be baptized by Jesus. "Why are you coming to me to be baptized?" John asks. Still, Jesus insists. Why? "For it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness," Jesus explains.

Thousands have brought back a few drops of water from the Jordan River. It is a must see River of antiquity as pilgrims from all over the world come to its banks. Beside this River, John the Baptist preached his message of repentance and baptism to prepare for the coming of the Messiah. Into this river came many in whom John's preaching resonated. Even after the Day of Pentecost, there are those who know 'only' John's baptism. And Jesus' self understanding comes into its fulness at this River; a voice from heaven proclaims, "this is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased."

Jesus is baptized by John to unite in himself all who preceded him into these waters and everyone who will enter Christian baptism in the Church. And John's ministry came to its crescendo as Jesus' baptism inaugurates the beginning of his own ministry; the Spirit of God descending upon him like a dove to show that he is the Son anointed by God; anointed by the Holy Spirit and with power.

In this anointing Jesus went about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. This is a deep and penetrating phrase: 'for God was with him.' It denotes a fullness of deity in all of his person; a fellowship of the Holy Trinity veiled in flesh, the Godhead see; hail the incarnate deity, pleased with us in flesh to dwell, Jesus our Emmanuel. (from Hark! The Herald Angels Sing)

So confident is Christ in the Holy fellowship within him, that he does not preach boisterously. His voice is soft in the streets of the common man, mindful of each man and woman, and boy and girl, who needs his touch, or needs to touch him. He looks upon humanity as sheep who need a shepherd, as bruised reeds and barely smoldering wicks; in mercy he reaches out to heal and to restore all who will receive him. Indeed he is the servant with whom the Father is well pleased; the only Son of the Father, in whom rests the Spirit.

One can only imagine what wonder filled John the Baptist and all those gathered at the Jordan that day. From heaven, a voice, the voice of the Father speaking as only he could about his Son. Those listening on that day could not misunderstand the pure love that bathed that moment in time: "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."

Sometimes there are no words to capture moments like this. Spiritual experiences may leave us with no words to convey what has been experienced. I understand those who are left speechless, but I pity those who have yet to enter into the bottomless mercy of love; who have yet to meet Christ and be left with few or no words to express their encounter with such heavenly acceptance.

In an oblique reference to himself, the Apostle Paul speaks of being caught up to the third heaven. Whether in the body or out of the body, he could not tell. But caught up into Paradise, he heard things so sacred that he found it impossible to speak of such things. We just might surmise that St. Paul heard the voice of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, simultaneously saying, "All who enter here are Beloved." Only Paul knows for sure what he heard, and he is unable to put it into words.

The affection the Father has for his Son inspires us to love Jesus more and more. Like the words of this wonderful hymn: More love to thee, O Christ, more love to thee! Hear thou the prayer I make on bended knee. This is my earnest plea: More love, O Christ, to thee; More love to thee, more love to thee! So out of our great love for Jesus and the redemption he won for us, let us come to this Table of Christ's Sacrificial Love, to receive the body and blood of our Savior.

Listen. Do you hear a voice from heaven saying of this Eucharist, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased?" By faith, I do too. Amen.

Dennis Hankins is a parishioner at Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral, of the Diocese of Knoxville, TN. Prior to his uniting with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil 2006, Dennis served as a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. You can email him at dennishankins@gmail.com

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