The Baptism of the Lord (B)
Is 42: 1-4,6-7 Ps 29 Acts 10:34-38 Mk 1:7-11
Deacon Jim McFadden; St. John the Baptist C.C.
Did you ever wonder why Jesus was able to see the essential goodness of the people he encountered? Jesus saw in others what he knew in himself. The heart he knew inside, he saw in others. In Buddhist literature there’s a story in which a colonel comes up to a monk and says, “When I look at you, I see a pig.” The monk replied, “When I look at you, I see the Buddha.” Taken aback the colonel asks, “How’s that?” The monk replied, “What you see on the outside is what you are in the inside.” The Talmud, an extra-biblical source of Jewish wisdom, also says that we don’t see the world as it is, but as we are.
In today’s gospel, Mark tells us when and how Jesus came to full consciousness of the essential goodness in himself. Jesus is going to know who he is at his baptism. I know what you make be thinking: Jesus is divine—he always knew that he was God. While Jesus is God incarnate, he’s also human and Scripture reveals to us that Jesus grew in wisdom, which would include his self-awareness. In any case, through his baptism, the eye of Jesus’ soul is open to transcendent realities: “On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open and the
Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him” (Mk 1:10). With his soul opened to the presence of his Father and the Spirit upon him, he hears a heavenly voice speak: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (v. 11).
That’s what Jesus learned at his baptism and that is what we learn when we open the Eye of the Soul: we are able to see who we truly are—that we are his beloved ones. We are beloved not because we have done the right things or have correct beliefs; we are loved not because we are good; we are good because we are loved! We are loved for no good reason; we simply have to learn how to deal with that. The pleasure of God that rested on Mary, that rested on Jesus, now rests on us. As the Father is handing himself over to Jesus, he also is handing himself over to us.
Why could Jesus look at people and see blessed people who are made in the image of God? Because inside himself he knew that he was THE beloved Son of God. That’s the beginning of the game; that’s the beginning of the journey. It all begins when we discover we are God’s beloved. We don’t acquire it, earn it, control it; we simply have to say “yes” to the reality that is already there. Until we get that the journey doesn’t take hold.
In the spiritual life, there are two types of work that go on: the first type is all the things we do before we find out who we are: it’s going into the wilderness where we try to find our self-worth through stuff outside of ourselves: through wealth, prestige, control, and pleasure. This is the necessary work; it is clearing the path until finally we let go of externals and begin the process of surrender. Once we let go, a whole new type of works flows out of us.
Once we find out who we are, the work that flows from our identity as the beloved begins: our will and the divine will are interconnected; we become Kingdom people. Through regular prayer, which leads us to that state of repose intoned in Psalm 46: “Be still and know that I am God” —we keep vibrant our awareness as the beloved. The greatest challenge is having an awareness of how reality reflects God. As Paul D’Arcy once said, “God comes to us disguised as our life.”
Yes, God is present in the Blessed Sacrament; yes, he is present at Mass. Yes, he is present when prayer and when good things happen. But, can we say we have the awareness that “God is here” when I lose a loved one, when I’m terminated from work, when I’m rejected by a dear friend, or when I experience a profound failure? Can we move out of our fears and expectations to being a delighting in the present moment no matter what the existential reality is? I find that when I do, I experience God’s grace and peace.
We are the biological daughter or son of our parents, but at a deeper level, we are a beloved child of God; we are sustained in that relationship by God. We are generated by divine reality at every moment of our existence. When we become conscious of that reality, then we know that we are loved and we’ll live the rest of our life from that power. We will see and act the way Jesus does. As God pours himself into our hearts, we also will pour ourselves out into all of our relationships and, in so doing sanctify our life.