Baptism of the Lord
There is a song that says, “Love me for a reason, and let the reason be love.” Deep down, all of us long for that kind of love. We all want to hear from those who say they love us: “I love you because I love you. Love is the only reason for my loving you.” It is called unconditional love.
For the most part, we do not have much experience with unconditional love. So, we try to create conditions in which we will feel worthy of love. We do not entirely trust love without reasons, so, we strive to create reasons for others to love us. “I will strive to get academic honors and awards, for me to be loved by my parents.” “I will strive to be successful in my career or profession, I will work hard to achieve and accomplish a lot, for me to be recognized and admired by others.” “I will strive to be rich, to be powerful, to be popular… for me to be somebody in this world.” And in all that striving, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that those who truly love me do not need those conditions. They will not praise me because of my accomplishments. Rather, they will praise my accomplishments because they love me. And they will love me even if there are no accomplishments to praise.
Martin Copenhaver has a book entitled Whispered in Your Ear. The author talks about unconditional love by saying: “If parents sometimes have something like unconditional love, a love without reasons, for their children, how much more so does God love his children?” We have to realize that all of our striving to win something that is ours already is simply unnecessary. Ayon kay Copenhaver mahalagang mabatid at masabi natin sa sarili natin: “Mahal ako ng Diyos dahil mahal ako ng Diyos.” “God loves me, not because I have distinguished myself in some way, but because I am God’s beloved.”
We celebrate today the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Today’s gospel reading tells us that Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River. And on coming up out of the water, heaven is torn open and the Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus, then, a voice is heard, saying, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
Today’s feast is a timely reminder to all of us that through our own baptism, God has also revealed our identity and declared to each one of us: “You are my beloved child; with you I am well pleased.” I want to invite you to allow this revelation to touch you… to let these words reverberate in your heart.
Jesus is proclaiming that we sinful, broken human beings are invited to the same intimate relationship with the Father that Jesus lived. We do not have to waste our time and energy trying to prove what does not need to be proven, or trying to get what is ours already: God’s love. We are God’s beloved sons and daughters, not because we have proven ourselves worthy of God’s love, but because God freely chose us to be his beloved. That is why he will never get tired telling each one of us: “You are my beloved child; with you I am well pleased.” “You are my beloved… no matter what!”
We cannot overstate the fact that God’s love is unconditional. God does not say, “I love you, IF…” There are no “ifs” in God’s heart. God’s love for us does not depend on what we say or do, on our looks or intelligence, on our success or popularity, on our accomplishment or social status. God’s love for us existed before we were born and will exist after we have died. God’s love is from eternity to eternity and is not bound to any time-related events or circumstances. (Henri Nouwen)
We often confuse unconditional love with unconditional approval. According to Henri Nouwen, God loves us without conditions but does not approve of every human behavior. God does not approve of selfishness and greed, of betrayal and deception, of suspicion and prejudice, of injustice and corruption, of hatred and violence, and all other expressions of evil, because they all contradict the love God wants to instill in the human heart. Evil is the absence of God’s love.
God’s unconditional love means that God continues to love us even when we say or think or do evil things. God continues to wait for us as a loving parent waits for the return of a lost child. It is important to hold on to the truth that God never gives up loving us even when God is saddened by what we do. That truth will help us to return to God’s ever-present love: “You are my beloved… no matter what!”