January 13, 2019
(The Baptism of the Lord)
Thus says the LORD: Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, Is_42:1-4,6-7
Peter proceeded to speak to those gathered in the house of Cornelius, saying: “In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Acts_10:34-38
Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Lk_3:15-16,21-22
“With you, I am well pleased.”
Did anyone ever say that to you, brothers and sisters? Maybe we hear it every day. But maybe we never hear it. Maybe our hearts are so desperately crying out to hear those words, that we’ve almost given up on EVER hearing them.
“With YOU I am well pleased!”
Despite our oopses, despite our, maybe, negative attitudes, despite our slowness in understanding, despite our independent natures, and even our rebelliousness, “With you: Ruth and Jim, and Mary and Tom, and all of you, “with you, I am well pleased!”
Today we celebrate the Baptism of Jesus; and really, our own Baptisms too. And, just as we heard and saw that Trinitarian Unity in Jesus’ Baptism: the Voice, the Spirit and the Son, we can also hear and see them, not only today, but potentially EVERY day, IF: our HEARTS are open to listen and our WILL is obedient to follow.
And if that IS our ‘post-baptismal condition,’ which it should be for all of us, – an open heart and an obedient will, then just like the disciples of Jesus, and just like the disciples of John the Baptist, and just like your brothers and sisters, who willfully and obediently came here, to Mass, to be with God, and to be with you today, (despite our 15 inches of snow), our loving Father is addressing all of us with those same words, “With you I am well pleased.” And, I might add that – IN you, He is initiating a huge Conversion for your life.
So what does this Open-Heart, Obedient-Will and Conversion really mean?
Well, we see it several times over, throughout our Scriptures today. In our first reading, The Lord speaks through the Prophet Isaiah about His Servant. That Servant has been understood, by Scripture Scholars to represent, the Nation of Israel, many of whom actually had a pretty hard time with the open-heart and obedient-will concept. As a matter of fact, that’s exactly where the nickname, “Stiff Necked” came from.
The Servant has also been described as Isaiah himself, God’s obedient Messenger and Prophet, who followed ever order, regardless of the pain or the embarrassment it may have caused in his life.
And yet, it’s through the eyes of the New Testament that WE believe that Isaiah’s Servant Oracles actually prefigured Jesus. Jesus, who with patient endurance would obediently, not snuff out a smoldering wick, nor break a bruised reed, because of his boundless love for everyone!
It was in that love, and through His open and Most Sacred Heart, that Jesus gave sight to the blind, freedom to the leprous prisoners, and light to the demon possessed and lost, just as Isaiah prophesied of God’s beloved and chosen Servant.
And then, of course, we have that incredible Conversion story of Cornelius and Peter, in our Second Reading. Cornelius, who was a Pagan, Roman Centurion; was also a devout believer in God. And one day, Cornelius, with his open-heart, had a vision of an angel of God – calling him to meet with a man named Peter.
Peter, meanwhile, also had a vision, calling him to disavow his ancient, Jewish, cleanliness customs by eating forbidden foods and meeting with this non-Jewish, Gentile, named Cornelius.
Did you ever have one of those, (what a non-Christian would call) “Chance encounters,” but a devout person would call a “Providentially inspired meeting” with a total stranger? And in that meeting, you discovered that there was a connection, there was an instant understanding, that seemed to change you forever; kind of like the encounter of Jesus with the Samaritan woman at the well.
Well, the same thing happened between Peter and Cornelius. And the change that resulted was a seismically, explosive Conversion.
You see, after Peter asked Cornelius why he summoned him to come, and Cornelius asked Peter, just who, exactly, he was, because he didn’t even know, they both realized that their meeting was totally orchestrated by God! The Voice, the Spirit and the Power were all there!
You see, it was through Peter’s open-heart and obedience to an unbelievable and challenging vision that he was converted to recognize exactly what Jesus had taught, all along, about accepting EVERYONE, even us Gentiles, into the Faith.
And it was through the open-heart and obedience of Cornelius, that he and his family were converted and Baptized into the faith; not only with the John’s Water Baptism of repentance, but with that same Holy Spirit who descended upon Jesus at His Baptism and upon the Apostles at Pentecost.
It was an absolutely phenomenal event that stemmed from a little bit of listening and a faith-driven obedience to God’s call on the parts of both Peter and Cornelius! They were both changed forever!
As we complete our Liturgical Season of Christmas today, and prepare to enter back into Ordinary Time, we remember this huge conversion that Jesus has initiated into OUR lives through our Baptisms.
We open our hearts to see, and to hear, and to find those: Voices and Doves, those puddles and snowflakes of Joy in our presence every day.
And then we relax our ever-defensive WILL, to maybe take a chance on obediently following God’s call for us.
It just may be – a life-changer!
And finally, with every new encounter, with every new and old face we meet, we share that same Holy Blessing of God:
“With You I am well pleased!”
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