Readings: Isaiah 42: 1–4, 6–7; Psalm 29: Acts 10: 34–38; Matthew 3:13–17

Baptism of Christ, Grigory Gagarin, c. 1840–1850I know I’m not the only one who feels as though Christmas came awfully fast this year. And today, as the Church officially ends the Christmas season, doesn’t it seem as though the Sunday readings have whisked us through 30 years of Jesus’ life in two and a half weeks! Last week we knelt with the Magi at the manger; today we kneel with Jesus as he is baptized by John the Baptist and sent forth to begin the work for which he is destined, the work of revealing God’s love and proclaiming God’s Good News for all creation.

One writer[1] titles his reflection on this feast, “Standing Under the Gaze of Love.” Can you recall the feeling of receiving a gaze of unconditional love from someone — family member, friend, lover, colleague, caregiver? How your heart melted? How you felt ten feet tall?

We come to know ourselves as gifted, precious, unique, through the eyes of others who love us. We discover the self that God created us to be, the self that God sees and loves, the self into which we keep growing.

In this gaze of love we find our calling, our vocation. (Yes, everyone has a vocation.) To paraphrase the writer Frederick Buechner, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

Imagine Jesus, rising up from his baptism in the aura of his Abba’s resounding affirmation, “You are my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.” Imagine his heart swelling with joy and opening to meet the “deep hunger” of the people of his world. Imagine him saying a resounding YES to them and to the God who promised to lead him every mysterious step of the way forward.

Each commitment we make — to a friend/partner, a life path, a project, a responsibility, a job — involves a YES that sets us on a certain path. On the day of his baptism, Jesus did not know the details of where his YES would lead. Neither did we, at our baptism. Life teaches us, as it taught Jesus, that for every YES, we need to say NO’s in order to protect our YES.

With Jesus, may we stand under God’s gaze of love today and re-experience our baptismal call and vocation.

Reflect on the YESes that shape your life now. As you recommit yourself to them, are there NOs that you are also being invited to choose, in order to protect your deepest commitments?

Pray with the image of the tapestry of the Baptism of Christ designed by John Nava for the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles.

–Sister Regina Bechtle, SC

Sr. ReginaSr. Regina, a writer, retreat leader, speaker, and spiritual director, serves as Charism Resource Director for the Sisters of Charity of New York.  

[1] Daniel G. Groody, CSC, Waiting in Joyful Hope 2019-2020, Liturgical Press, 100-101

Image: Baptism of Christ, Grigory Gagarin, c. 1840–1850