January 9, 2022
Yesterday, at St. Mary’s Church in Walnut Creek, I baptized Luca Slovik. I baptized Luca’s mother and I married her to his father. I baptized his grandmother and married her to her husband Jay. When you are a priest for 55 years, you are not only a priest but a grandfather priest and a great-grandfather priest. It is one of the great personal satisfactions to experience.
For over 55 years, I have been talking about Jesus, hopefully leading people to Jesus, accompanying thousands of people along the roads of life, being with so many people in their joy and in their sadness, in their difficulties and in their successes.
Today, we see Jesus leaving his hometown and the work that Joseph, his foster father, taught him. Like many other Jewish people of his day, he went out of his town to see, to listen to and to meet someone whom we now know to have been his cousin, John who was baptizing thousands of people in the Jordan river valley.
It was a time of great hope and expectation, of great hope for their little country of Palestine. There was a positivity in the air. There was a man speaking with passion and spiritual insight, calling people out of their towns to open their lives once again to God, to leave spiritual dumbness, to get back to the basics of God and love.
As people, we are also looking for personal and spiritual fixes and [people like] John who was baptizing and calling people to make room for God in their lives were popular. People were looking for a Messiah, anyone anointed with the Spirit. John was not the only one, but he was the one that Jesus wanted to hear and wanted to acknowledge.
John was very clear that he was calling people to be prepared and to be able to recognize the one who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. So Jesus was baptized, and the presence of God exploded, a sonic boom, and some even heard a voice revealing Jesus, God’s voice revealing “You are my beloved son.”
So today we are admiring the beloved son who revealed to us that we are the beloved children of God also. We would not know this unless we were told this. Just like Jesus, we also have to discover what this means – to be God’s beloved son, to be God’s beloved daughter.
First of all, I think it means that we have to do something wonderfully good with our lives. They are a wonderful gift that calls us to live in loving relationships and to share life and goodness. There is where Jesus begins and where we begin also.
We don’t need a college degree or to be a rocket scientist to understand what life is about or how to find our place in life. Our mind and our heart know instinctively, and all we have to do is to follow our best instincts, one step at a time, letting life and love grow inside each one of us. We know this when we are 5 years old, when we are 15 and 25, fifty and seventy. Like blood to veins, breathing air to our lungs, God is to who we are.
Jesus came to John to begin the more public sharing of his life. If Jesus can open his heart and life to God as he kneels before John, certainly we can do the same today.
We have received the Baptism. We have received the call to live authentic, generous and God-like lives. We are the beloved children of God just as Jesus is. His legacy is now ours. And we all need to embrace our legacy and to be our legacy.
St. Paul reminds us that God appears in our life if we “live temperately, justly and devoutly” – if we are calm and humble, seeking the right path to life, treating each other fairly and justly and generously, and doing life in a committed way, enthusiastically and responsibly.
We too are saved by the bath of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. That is what Jesus wanted to receive at the hands of John. That is what our parents wanted us to receive of our baptism, and that is what we want to renew in a very personal way in our hearts today. As St. Paul concludes, we want “to become heirs in hope of eternal life.” What we are doing now, and how we are living our normal lives is not our destination.
We hear the beautiful words of the Prophet Isaiah: God wants to comfort us. We are his children, not his slaves. With God’s help and inspiration, we walk the path to life bringing everything into balance and wholeness, into hope and happiness. Instead of resisting God, we invite God to carry us, to lead us, to encourage us, to provide for us.
Once again today, we need to hear the voice of God speaking real words to your hearts and to mine: “You, you are my beloved son, you are my beloved daughter, and with you I am well pleased.”
All that God requests is a little gratitude and some love. That is our vocation in our lives.