Photo: Mary Kay Volpone
'My Beloved Son'
By Father Angelo Casimiro, MIC (Jan 13, 2011)
The following is a transcript of Deacon Angelo Casimiro's first homily. He delivered it during Mass at the Divine Mercy Chapel at the Marian Assisted Living Center in Brookeville, Md., on Jan. 9, 2011, the day after his diaconate ordination.
"This is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased." As little boys growing up, these are the words we long to hear from our fathers. We want to know that they love us and are pleased with us. Most importantly, we need affirmation from our fathers that we have what it takes to become a man. God the Father loved His Son, Jesus, and took great delight in Him. It is Jesus' loving and intimate relationship with His Father that fathers and sons want to model their relationships after.
As I meditated on the story of the Baptism of Jesus in today's gospel, it dawned on me that this particular passage can be divided into three parts with each part corresponding to a Person of the Holy Trinity. The first part is about Jesus, the Second Person of the Trinity, coming to John the Baptist to be baptized. The second part is about the heavens being opened and the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity, descending like a dove and resting upon Jesus. The third part is about the voice from heaven, God the Father, the First Person of the Trinity, acknowledging Jesus as His beloved Son, with whom He is well pleased.
The common question about the baptism of Jesus is why He needed to be baptized. Jesus' response to John the Baptist is, "Let it be so now; for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." He chose to be baptized so as to teach us to obey all God's commands. Jesus humbled Himself by submitting to the authority of others. For example, He submitted Himself to the authority of His parents, Joseph and Mary. By doing so, Jesus teaches us about the virtue of obedience to God's will. His baptism is an anticipation of how He later submits Himself to His passion and death. After all, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus said to the Father, "Not My will, but Thy will be done."
In the Old Testament, when the heavens are opened, it signifies a moment when human beings are in direct communication with the divine. The descent of the Spirit calls to mind the messianic prophecy of Isaiah that "the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him" and also the account of creation when "the spirit of God" swept over the waters. After the great flood, it was the dove that brought Noah an olive leaf to symbolize the beginning of another age in human history. Now the dove appears again at the beginning of the last age. Thus God's kingdom has come in the person of Jesus. He is given the power and direction to begin His public ministry.
The voice of God the Father reveals Jesus as His beloved Son, as the Son of God. The term "Son of God" comes up in three different ways in the Old Testament. The first is as a chosen servant of God who will help Israel and who will suffer for it. The second is as a royal son of David. The third is Israel as God's first-born son. Jesus is the fulfillment of all of these. He is publicly acknowledged as the Son of God. Later on at the Transfiguration, the Father declares to Peter, James and John: "This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him." The Baptism also looks ahead to Jesus' death, when the centurions and his companions announce: "Truly, this was the Son of God!' (Mt 27:54).
Many of us who were baptized as infants do not remember our baptisms and what it felt like. But ask any new convert who entered the Church during the Easter Vigil what it was like and they will probably tell you that it was as if they had been "made a new person in Christ." Everything that happened with Jesus at His baptism also happens with us. The heavens are opened, the Spirit of God descends like a dove upon us, and a voice from heaven says "This is My beloved son (or daughter), with whom I am well pleased." We may not physically experience this, but it is a spiritual reality, which we believe in faith.
To be called the "beloved son (or daughter) of God the Father" are words we each long to hear. The account of the Baptism of Jesus in Matthew's gospel is where we first encounter Jesus' relationship with the Father. Jesus only had one mission — to do the will of the Father. Jesus models for us what our relationship with God the Father should be like — to know Him in loving obedience. However, some of us may have distorted images of the Father, based on what our own relationships with our earthly fathers were like. Some fathers may have been emotionally distant or abusive or suffered from addictions. After all, they're also human and they have their shortcomings.
My relationship with my father had been distant and we often did not see eye to eye on everything. Then my mother passed away from cancer a year ago, and by the grace of God, there began a healing in our relationship as father and son. Last year, I made a retreat to prepare for my perpetual profession of vows in the Marian Congregation. Because of my relationship with my father when I was growing up, I noticed that I also did not have a very good relationship with God the Father. However, during my retreat, I could sense that He was calling me and wanted to heal me of my past hurts, if only I would let Him.
I started drawing closer to the Father, and I prayed to Him and said, "I need to know that I'm Your beloved son. I have to hear it." On the eve of my perpetual profession, my Marian brothers held a Holy Hour in my honor. At the end, everyone prayed over me. All of a sudden, someone started reading a verse from Scripture and these were the words I heard, "This is My beloved son, with whom I am well pleased." I knew right away that it was God the Father speaking directly to me. I had never felt so loved. At the same time, a couple of days later I received an e-mail from my father. He had attended my perpetual profession at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Mass. He wrote to tell me how much he loved me and how proud he was of me. These were words that I had been waiting all my life to hear from him.
God the Father is so in love with us. He wants to have an intimate relationship with us and He wants to heal us, only if we let Him. And so like the disciples, we need to ask Jesus to reveal the Father to us.
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Also, as part of our Marian family, you are invited to share in giving a chalice to Br. Angelo Casimiro, MIC, in preparation of his priestly ordination. Learn more.