JANUARY 6, 2004: HOMILY- MARK 1: 7-11
HE SAW THE HEAVEN OPEN AND THE SPIRIT DESCENDING LIKE A DOVE AND REMAINING UPON HIM. AND A VOICE CAME FROM HEAVEN: ‘YOU ARE MY BELOVED SON IN WHOM I TAKE DELIGHT.’ The baptism of Jesus was a major event in his life, as the Gospels give clear evidence. The event is replete with mystery, for it reveals two of the most profound truths of revelation: the transcendent person of Jesus and the three persons of the Blessed Trinity acting in consort. On this occasion our Lord himself received a fresh confirmation of his personal relation to the Father. Nothing so enhances love and the conviction of being loved as its explicit expression in words. St. Luke tells us that Jesus ‘grew in wisdom and age and grace before God and man’ (2:52). Surely this occasion when the Father declares openly his delight with his beloved Son, the love that our Lord always experienced for his heavenly Father intensified and was more firmly anchored in his heart. The conviction of being loved by one whom we hold in honor and reverence imparts an inner strength and confidence as nothing else can convey. What greater gift is there than that of knowing that we are loved by a person who, we realize, truly knows us for what we are, knows us at our worst as well as our best, and is himself surpassingly worthy, deserving of all respect.
Encountering such a person is a momentous inner experience, however ordinary the occasion may appear on the surface. Such an encounter, nonetheless, confronts us with a great challenge that not everyone is able to accept. To believe in that love and to accept it requires a measure of self- respect and a confidence of self-worth. Many persons are inaccessible to selfless, pure love in whatever form it assumes. Whether it comes from a parent, a teacher, a loving relative, a superior, a benefactor, a true friend – whoever the source, such love must be believed in before it can be effective in our life. Jesus had just such an experience emanating from the Father at the time when he humbled himself, so as to identify with us who stand in need of spiritual cleansing. The purpose of this word from the Father, like the purpose of Jesus’ baptism is to reveal the Father’s love for us.
It was precisely at this time too that the Spirit came upon the Lord with an altogether vivid power imparting an unshakable conviction of his worth as man. He descended, we are told, in the form of a dove. The dove at the time of Noah’s passing through the waters of purification, brought him the sign that the earth was to have new life in God’s favor. At Jesus’ baptism that sign is renewed and its fulfillment begins. The Spirit, in the form of a dove, abides with Jesus and empowers him to undertake the strenuous and dangerous mission to announce the kingdom and to begin its actualization.
This is the Spirit who is given to us at baptism and who comes to us with the Lord Jesus in this Eucharist. He has the same function to fulfill in us that he exercised in the Lord. He comes to assist us that we might be strengthened to share in our Lord’s mission and endure something of the same struggle that Jesus knew. At Jesus’ baptism we are given assurance that we are called along with him to open our heart to the Father’s love; this is the very purpose of the revelation described in today’s Gospel. Jesus was baptized that we too might be sons and daughters of God, well-pleasing to the Father and convinced of his love for us. Let us live worthily of such a call, persevering in fidelity until we join the our Lord in the kingdom that he has prepared for those who put their trust in him.&
Abbot John Eudes Bamberger
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