From the Pastor – January 10, 2010

“After all the people had been baptized and 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. 3:21-22)

Last week we celebrated “Epiphany Sunday” – the visit of the magi to the infant Jesus. But the Church Father’s saw much more in the “epiphany.” The Greek word for Epiphany (ἐπιφάνεια) mean “appearance” or “manifestation.” The point is that the identity of Jesus was “made known” on certain occasions. One of the earliest “manifestations” of Jesus as the King of Kings occurred when He was given homage by the magi, who recognized His glory. But there were other “epiphanies.” Obviously, the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph were given an “epiphany” when Jesus was born. The shepherds in the field were given an epiphany when the angel led them to the baby Jesus. But the Church Fathers who wrote in the earliest centuries of Christianity focus on three distinct “epiphanies”: the Visit of the Magi, the Wedding Feast at Cana, and the Baptism of Our Lord. In each of these, Christ was manifested to those present.

In many ways, the Baptism of Our Lord is the most dramatic of the epiphanies. Although the presence of “wise men” in the small town of Bethlehem visiting a baby might have been unusual, the sight of “heavens opened,” the “Holy Spirit descending in bodily form as a dove,” and a voice from Heaven saying ”˜You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased’” sends a clear message!

An interesting part of the “epiphany” is the words spoken by the “voice from Heaven.” The words come at the beginning of Christ’s ministry. Why is the Father so “well pleased”? Jesus hadn’t “done” anything, yet. The point is that the Father loves Jesus, and that is why He is well pleased. And the moment is a reminder to us. God doesn’t love us because of what we “do.” God loves us. Period. We respond to that love by living lives consistent with the Gospel because that is how we can live the happiest, and God wants our happiness. But the love of God is stronger than anything we “do.” And that’s especially important for understanding God’s love for us even in the face of our own sins. God loves us, despite our sins. Our own Baptism incorporates us into the life of Christ, and our availing ourselves of the Sacrament of Confession restores us when we fall away from Christ and others.

But even in the midst of our sins, God is faithful and loving. We are God’s beloved sons and daughters. We are loved by God. In us He is well pleased.

Rev. Msgr. Christopher H. Nalty