Friday, January 13, 2017

Introducing Jesus, The Beloved Son

We can learn a lot about people by the way they introduce themselves.

After telling us their name, most people will describe what they do for a living or where they work. Younger people might tell us what they want to do when they grow up or what job they are preparing for in college. Because our society places such a high value on productivity and wealth, it is natural that we will identify ourselves with our chosen profession.

Work is important to us. It gives us a sense of accomplishment and meaning. If we make a lot of money or have important positions in our company, it will be a source of pride for us and we will enjoy talking about that with others.

However, if our introduction does not go beyond what we do for a living, chances are that we will never become good friends with the person we are talking to. Most likely, we will have a pleasant conversation and then go our separate ways. We might bump into him or her later on in a store or on the street and say “hello” but it will never go beyond that. They become the kind of people we see from time to time but whose names we can never remember.

Then there are people who introduce themselves and tell us about their relationships. They identify themselves as “Carmen’s son” or “Hughie’s wife”. For them, friendships are important. They connect with the people they meet by finding out what friends or relatives they might have in common. They might say, “You’re from Sussex? Do you know Susan who lives on the main road? I went to school with her.”

Usually these types of introductions lead to conversations which are more meaningful. When we focus on relationships, we tend to share more of ourselves with the people we meet. We gain a deeper insight into the person we are speaking with and feel a deeper connection with them. These conversations lead to more lasting friendships. Rather than share information about one another, we are revealing our values and feelings. Because we feel an instant bond, we make a point of seeing them again. Introductions that begin with our relationships rather than with our employment lead to richer exchanges and deeper connections.

In today’s gospel, God introduces Jesus to us and what He says tells us a lot about who Jesus is. Saint Luke tells us that while Jesus is praying after His baptism, the skies opened and God’s voice thundered from heaven. What does God say about Jesus? He does not introduce Him to us as a carpenter. He does not tell us what His specialty was or what projects He might have worked on. He does not tell us where He went to school or what subject He majored in. He does not even tell us that He is from Nazareth in Galilee. Rather, He introduces Jesus as His Son: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

Jesus based His identity on His relationship with the Heavenly Father. If we were to meet Jesus, He would introduce Himself to us as the Son of God. His one mission in life was to make known to us the love of His Father in heaven. For this reason, He went through all the land proclaiming the Kingdom of God, calling sinners to follow Him and healing the sick. Because He had total trust in His Father’s love, He was able to say “Not my will but yours be done” and hand Himself over to death for our salvation. Jesus did not want to be known simply as a great man, a spiritual leader or even the Messiah.  Rather, He wants to be known as the Son of a good and loving God and He wants us to know this great God as well.

Introducing Jesus as His beloved Son tells us that God is not interested in impressing us with his resume but in being friends with us. God wants a relationships with us. He wants to enter into a conversation with us that is less about what we are doing and more about what type of people we are becoming. He wants us to realize that each one of us is known and loved by Him and that He wants us to know and love Him in return.

God revealed Jesus to the world as His Beloved Son at His baptism. Just so, at our baptism, each one of us became a daughter and son of God. That is our truest, deepest and most lasting identity. We can lose our jobs. Whatever skills we learned at school can become obsolete. Even our relationships end. However, we can never lose our identity as sons and daughters of God. Even when we have sinned, our Heavenly Father calls us back home and waits for our return just like the father in the parable of the Prodigal Son.

When we identify ourselves as sons and daughters of God above everything else, so much in our lives changes. We come to understand that we are loved unconditionally. Any doubts we might have about our worth or goodness melt away in the warmth of God’s love. We also live with a sense of purpose and meaning. We realize that God has a plan for our lives and that He leads the way before us. Our level of stress and anxiety diminishes as we come to trust that our Heavenly Father will provide for us. Finally, we have hope that no matter what may happen, our Heavenly Father will make all things turn out for our good.

Jesus is God’s Beloved Son. He is the One sent by the Father to reveal His love for us. God introduces Him to us as His Son because, more than anything else, He wants to have a relationship with us. All love affairs begin with a simple introduction and a “hello”. If God seems distant and prayer seems difficult, perhaps the way to start would be to simply welcome your Heavenly Father into your life with a simple “hello”. He is waiting for you and is eager to introduce Himself to you. The process has already begun at your baptism. All that is left now is to open your heart to the One who wants to be known as your Heavenly Father.

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