|Baptism of Christ|
by Daniel Bonnell
“In the thousands of moments that string together to make up our lives, there are some where time seems to change its shape and a certain light falls across our ordinary path. We stop searching for purpose, we become it!”
In 2002, Baptist pastor, Rick Warren published his book, The Purpose Driven Life. In the first year of its publication, there were over 11 million copies sold. Within 4 years there were over 30 million copies in English sold and eventually it became an international bestseller and it has been translated into more than 50 languages. In its descriptive summary, it is stated that in this best-seller, author Rick Warren will help you understand God’s purpose for your life, so that you can learn to live the life for which you were created.
Why has this book been so popular? Could it be that in today’s culture where we are often teased, tempted and somewhat tormented with media messages that tell us we don’t have enough, we are not good enough, and that we are not enough makes people eager to have someone help them understand God’s purpose and path for them? Or could it be that we fear to slow down and be still attempting to avoid pondering the questions that everyone eventually faces in life, and these are, Why am I here? What is my purpose?
In our Gospel today, Jesus had been walking around with the same questions – yet, something happened to Jesus when he was baptized in the Jordon by John. He was changed. Something dramatic happened – the heavens opened, the Spirit came upon him, and there was cloud-talk and the voice said, “You are my beloved. With you I am well pleased.”
That’s what changed Jesus. From then on Jesus realized who he was and what his purpose was! He was the Beloved of God and he would be faithful to his beloved God, no matter what and that is just what he did for the rest of his short life. With these intimate and consoling words, “You are my beloved,”- Jesus was changed forever and charged with the energy of the Spirit as he came up from the waters of the Jordon.
As John Dear writes: “God does not mince words or make small talk. God gets right to the heart of the matter.” Jesus is the Beloved of God. And for the rest of his life, he will understand himself and his mission in the light of this revelation and this relationship. He will live his life in a relationship of intimate love with God. He accepts it, honors it, and welcomes it. He will remain true to his identity until his final breath.
As baptized followers of Jesus, we, too, stand in readiness, in vulnerability, in authenticity as we hear in our depths that God says to each one of us, “You are my beloved.” We, too, are charged by the Spirit to claim, accept, honor and embrace who we are – for we are beloved!
We, too, are called to claim our purpose, our vocation like Jesus. We, too, are to hear the voice again and again – each time being more attentive to its intimacy. It comes from a deep place; it is soft and gentle. We, too, have to hear that voice and claim for ourselves that the voice speaks truth, our truth and tells us who we are – for we are beloved!
As Christians, we are all called again and again – over a lifetime- to a particular direction and purpose. A vocation takes a lifetime. Our vocation grows and changes as we come into a greater realization of our own journey of faith.
We are all challenged, like Jesus, to go forward into the world and call people to God. To trust God even when everything falls apart and even when death approaches. Living as the beloved of God means that we live every day rooted in that intimate relationship of love. It means treating ourselves as God’s beloved and treating one another as God’s beloved as well.
This being beloved carries personal, spiritual, interpersonal, social and global implications. If we take this seriously, it means that we as God’s beloved have to be open to the shocking and wonderful news that every other human being in the world is also a beloved daughter or son of God – it means that we are all one; we all are chosen; we are all called to bring sight to the blind, release to those held hostage, light to those who wander in darkness, and justice to those who are oppressed or marginalized.
As followers of Jesus, we share in his baptism, his ministry, his death and resurrection. It means that just as Jesus heard the cloud-talk-affirmation, “You are my beloved,” God says to each one of us, “You are my beloved:” God is loving us, affirming us; God delights in us and calls each of us into our true identity and our true purpose.