January 13, 2013, Sunday
Is 42:1-4, 6-7
Ps 29:1-2, 3-4, 3, 9-10
Luke 3:15-16, 21-22
For the last several evenings I have be rereading one of the many treasures produced by the late Father Henri Nouwen. His insights have been most helpful to me and my personal spiritual journey in the middle and later years of my priesthood. Today's feast of the Baptism of Jesus I am linking to the Nouwen book, Home Tonight. Why? In this feast day it is again one of the moments of beginnings and the reflection on the return of the Prodigal Son spurred into reality by Fr. Nouwen's sitting before Rembrandt's painting The Return of the Prodigal Son housed at the Hermitage Art Gallery in St. Petersburg, Russia.
In today's readings we do focus on the baptism but presented to us as a sign of God's love for the Son as well as ourselves. While it is the baptism of Jesus it is an event that relates to all God's children. The reflection from Father Nouwen reminds us of God's love for us despite our errant ways.
As we know our entry into the Christian community comes about through the pouring of water in the ritual of the Sacrament of Baptism. The experience of the prodigal son is a reminder that our God always welcomes us back into the community of believers whenever we have distanced ourselves from the love of God. It is a reminder that God never closes the door to the community to the sinner who returns, seeking the forgiveness of the Father.
In the ritual of the sacrament of Baptism we receive a white garment. The painting recounting the father's moment of welcome to the atoning son pictures a beaten down young man with worn and tattered clothing. In painting the young man in this way, Rembrandt knowingly or not, the damages done by sin to the white garment of our baptism. In that sacrament the Father welcomes us into the power of his forgiveness. In the absolution from our sins God the Father embraces us just as the father embraced the errant son. In baptism he welcomed us just as he recognized Jesus and proclaimed him to be "my beloved Son."
Let us recall our own baptism moment and its meaning for us, seeing it a a beginning to our journey in our Church community. Let us give the Lord God thanks for this gift of this sacrament and his reassurance that despite our sinfulness we are always welcomed anew when we turn to the Father seeking his forgiveness.