Imagine you started a new job at a large company where you did not know a single person.
As you sat at your desk filling out some final forms for the Human Resources Department, the owner of the firm walked over to you and said, “You are a fine employee. I am really pleased with you.”
You would be surprised by that comment. You would think that the owner had confused you with someone else since you had done nothing deserving of praise. It was your first day on the job!
In Sunday's Gospel (Mark 1:7-11), we hear of the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist. When Jesus comes out of the waters of the Jordan a voice from the heavens proclaims, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
We might wonder why God the Father would say he was pleased with Jesus for Jesus had not yet begun his ministry. We might say that it was Jesus’ first day on the job.
At the Transfiguration of Jesus, the Father says something similar. As Jesus shines with divine glory, a voice from the heavens declares, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” (Matthew 17:5)
On that occasion, the words of God the Father would seem to be more fitting. Ever since his baptism, Jesus had been proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom, healing the sick, driving out demons, forgiving sins. He had been fulfilling the mission the Father had given him. It would be understandable that the Father would be well pleased with what Jesus had been doing.
So why does the Father proclaim his satisfaction with Jesus on the day of his baptism? God himself gives us the answer. The Father takes joy and pride in Jesus simply because of who Jesus is. As the Father says, “You are my beloved Son.”
We see that same dynamic in the relationship between parents and their children. Parents love their little ones even when they have not done a thing to earn their approval. Parents simply shower their love upon them because they are their beloved sons and daughters. They love them for who they are, not because of what they do.
This Sunday, we are reminded that we are loved by God, but not because of what we do for God. After all, what does Almighty God need us to do for him?
God loves us simply because we are his children. We were made so at our baptism. As the priest or deacon told the congregation just before leading them in the Our Father, “Dear brothers and sisters: these children, reborn through Baptism, are now called children of God, for so indeed they are.”
The Father is pleased with us, he showers his gifts upon us, not because we have earned them, but because we are his children.
This Sunday, as we hear the words that God the Father speaks to Jesus, we can also hear them as words that our heavenly Father addresses to us, “You are my beloved son, my beloved daughter; with you I am well pleased.”
© 2021 Rev. Thomas B. Iwanowski
Best Wishes for a New Year Filled with God’s Presence and Peace!