Baptism of the Lord 2019

     I really should start selling subscriptions to my family’s group text chat. You never know what is going to come across and quite frankly, I usually don’t want to know, but curiosity almost always gets the better of me. The conversation usually starts out innocent enough, but before you know it one of my siblings says something that makes me question if we are actually related. For example on Monday afternoon one of my sisters innocently asked if anyone was doing anything for the National Championship game, to which one of my other sisters replied “the bachelor premiers tonight.” I know 5 million people watched the Bachelor on Monday, but really all she wanted to do was watch some made up love story?

     Perhaps what disgusted me the most about my sisters response was that deep down I know most of us are addicted to love. I think if we are honest all of us will admit that inside all of us lies a basic desire to be wanted. Isn’t it true that for each of us there’s a part of us that hopes and prays we could just figure out how to be nice enough, cute enough, bubbly enough, or just simply enough? Whether it is a family member, a friend, co-worker, our social media profile, or even a complete stranger it seems we are fixated on earning the acceptance of others.

     We seem to search everywhere to be loved without ever realizing there is really only one person who can bring us total fulfillment. While others can certainly love us, only God can truly fulfill us and “our hearts are restless until they rest in you O God.”[1] Did you hear Him in today’s Gospel? After Jesus was baptized the heavens opened and the Father proclaimed, “you are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Friends that same statement was made about each of us at our baptism where original sin was washed from our souls and we were adopted as sons and daughters of God. In descending into the waters of baptism, you and I died to our old selves and were reborn by water and the Holy Spirit, into the love of the Father.

     Today’s Gospel then challenges us to ask ourselves how do we relate to God. Do we truly believe that we are His beloved sons and daughters? Can we humble ourselves to accept the truth that the great creator of the universe truly loves us as an individual? If you are anything like me, we find ourselves at times feeling like we need to earn God’s love. We become afraid that He might decide He doesn’t really love us anymore, or that we might do something to lose His love. Sure we know in our minds that God loves us unconditionally and even when we reject His love through sin, He is waiting with open arms to welcome us back, yet for there often seems to be a disconnect between our brain and our heart and for some reason that head knowledge never seems to make it to the experience of our hearts.

     Perhaps this disconnect comes from what we experience in our world which is so often a world of imperfect love, a world where love comes with strings attached. While conditional love is something that we as human people inflict on each other, God only knows perfect love, unconditional love. After all, the great event of Christmas where God came into this world as a little baby and died on the cross living out His teaching that “no one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends,”[2] is definitive proof of the way God loves us.

     Just think about it, is there really anything that we as mere mortals can do to impress Him who created us? All of us are alive simply because God loves us, thinks of us, and wills that we exist. Every moment of every day He is thinking of each and everyone of us specifically, He is smiling and crying and feeling everything we do. There is nothing we could have done to earn this type of love. Yet how often do we interact with God as if it were up to us, and our actions to make us love Him? How often do we go through our lives acting like we have to convince God to send love our way? Today’s Gospel challenges us to see our relationship with God in the light of truth. How differently would our lives be if we truly believed that God loves us unconditionally? How would it change our outlook on life? Would it embolden us to live out our faith, knowing that we always have God at our side to walk this life with us? How differently would our lives be if we truly believed that we could never lose the love and approval of God, regardless of our successes or failures? How differently would we treat others if we realized that the one who is madly in love with you is also madly in love with everyone else?

     While we search everywhere in this world for that inner desire to love and be loved, ultimately we will never be enough until we surrender and let God love us with His unconditional love. So then as we close out this Christmas season I invite you to join me in making a resolution to get out of the way and allow that child we discovered in the manger on Christmas to love you like He wants to and then to share that love with the rest of the world.

[1] St. Augustine, Confessions Book 1, Chapter 1

[2] Jn 15:13

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