For over two weeks now we have been reflecting on, and celebrating God’s great gift of Himself to us when He took on our human nature and became one of us – our brother in the flesh. We marvel at this self-emptying love which we see before our eyes in the baby – as St John describes it:

Something which has existed since the beginning
Which we have seen with our own eyes
Which we have watched and touched with our hands
The Word who is Life (1Jn 1:1)

In today’s feast we see Jesus as a grown man taking a further step in his solidarity with humankind. St Luke, whose Gospel we read on Sundays this year, tells us that John the Baptist was proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Lk 3:4).

Then Jesus – the sinless One – comes and is baptised by John. Will we ever grasp the depth of this mystery? The all holy One, the innocent One stoops down to our level – identifies himself with us sinners. He does not condemn, does not stand aloof from our plight, but rather stands right in our midst, and in so doing he reveals His true identity – and our identity in Him.

Luke tells us that “while Jesus after his own baptism was at prayer, heaven opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily shape, like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on you’”

We are here gazing on the whole mystery of the Incarnation at its deepest level. God, in Christ Jesus, takes on Himself our alienation from God – an alienation which will reach its depths in the apparent abandonment of the Cross. And it is in this act, where He stands in the place of sin, being sin for us, this is the revelation of the Trinity! – the love of the Triune God, in Christ, standing with us in our sin! Heaven opens and that same love lets us know, as we stand with Him, “You are the Beloved”.

When praying with this scripture during the week I was led to reflect on the Church today and in particular the Church in Ireland. All of us are shocked – and rightly so – at the terrible sin and crime and betrayal of trust which have come to light in recent years. Many have disassociated themselves from a Church which could be so sinful and as a result walk no longer with us. In today’s Gospel is Jesus inviting us to follow his example? to stand naked in his presence in our own need and sinfulness – remembering that He conquered sin by becoming sin for us.

It is when we have the courage to stand in the nakedness of our own sinfulness and weakness that we most truly experience God’s love and mercy – it is also the place where we are most profoundly united with our brothers and sisters, wherever they may be, no matter what their situation may be. Jesus lived the reality of the other to the point where he carries the whole ‘baggage’ of the other. He reaches out to embrace sinful humanity, taking every individual within Himself, not leaving anything outside and speaks out both His and our ‘yes’ to the Father and the Father responds: “You are my Son”.

Through our celebration of this feast in solidarity with the whole Church may we come to know both individually and as a Church that we are the Father’s beloved sons in the Son and may the Holy Spirit come and transform us ever more fully to the likeness of Christ Jesus – and enable the Church of our day to bear witness to the reality which it is in truth.

(the icon was written by one of our sisters)