Encountering Jesus in Prayer — Baptism of the Lord—Year C

At Jesus’ baptism, the Father spoke to Him from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Today, our Father wants you to hear Him say to you, “You are my beloved child and with you I am well pleased.”

This may be hard for us to hear. Maybe we think to ourselves, “I’m certainly not Jesus.   How could God be well pleased with me? Our past and present sins of come to mind and we feel pained by guilt. In times of prayer and in our daily life we are burdened by the thought that we are not the person God wants us to be. We think, “If only I were better, if only I could be perfect, then I could live and pray like the saints and God would love me.” If we think like this, our thinking has it backwards.

It’s not that God decides to love the saints, or us, only after we have achieved holiness by our own incredible feats of strength, endurance and personal sacrifice. Here’s the secret to the saints: the knowledge of God’s love and pleasure toward them came to them first, the saints’ great holiness only followed. Saints are not self-made men and women. It is by accepting God’s embracing love for us that we’re empowered to live incredible lives of love. We live like saints if we live in the truth that God loves us already.

To bear this point out, I would like you to try a thought experiment.  (You may close your eyes if you think it will help.) Imagine if you were a completely perfect person, totally free from sin, and free from guilt and fear before Him. Now pray to the Father in heaven imagining you’re this perfect version of yourself.

If you’re like me, imagining this makes it much easier to approach Him, to love Him, to praise Him, to thank Him and to feel His love for you.

And now, still imagining you’re this perfect person, consider the day or the week ahead of you.  What kind of attitude do you feel towards your life?

Again, if you’re like me, you find it much easier to see the future not so much as a burden, but with a certain eager calm. You view your life as an great opportunity to serve and to love from out of the abundance of love that you feel.

It’s not just your imagination that makes you feel this way.  It is the Holy Spirit confirming a truth in you. And the truth is that when the Father looks at you He doesn’t see the unlovable wretch of your fears, He sees something much closer to this perfect person.  By our baptism into Christ, we are loved as God’s daughters and sons, but maybe we not living like the saints we so admire because we’re tripped up by fear and self-doubts, thinking that for us intimacy with God remains a thousand miles away. The Father wants you to be confident, peaceful, and joyful in His love for you. In this way of His, He will lead you out of sins which history proves that your own efforts alone cannot conquer. Compared to the self-imposed yoke of our own anxious strivings to holy, the way of accepting God’s love for us is easy and light, and it actually works. We will live like saints when we accept the truth that God loves us already.

The saints became saints by overflowing with God’s love for them, by receiving His acceptance, approval and pleasure. These are gifts which He always wanted to give them, and He would do the same for us, if only we would let Him. So when you pray the Our Father today do it as the Father’s beloved son or daughter. And whenever you pray, or in whatever you do, do it in the liberating and empowering truth: “You are my beloved child; with you I am well pleased.”

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