It’s great to be home. Most of you know that I spent that last two weeks in Rome. It was a great vacation filled with memories I will cherish. One of the greatest blessings was that I was able to celebrate Mass at the tomb of Saint John Paul II. The experience of seeing all of the churches was also powerful. Something that I have personally been praying with since Christmas is how truly amazing it is that Christ has changed this world. At Christmas, this Church was packed, all because of one man, Jesus Christ. In Rome, there are 900 Catholic churches… again, all because of one man, Jesus Christ, who came to proclaim the Father’s love to the world.
Jesus came to proclaim the Father’s love to the world. Today we have the great gift of celebrating the Father’s love. Today we celebrate our Lord’s baptism. We hear these amazing words, the heavens [were] opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon [Jesus] in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you, I am well pleased.” And so, today, we not only remember His baptism, but we also celebrate and remember the gift of our baptism. This is the day that we remember who we are. We remember that we belong to the Heavenly Father. We are His beloved sons and daughters.
In Disney’s, The Lion King, Simba is struggling to remember his identity – to remember who he is. He blames himself for his Father’s death. He has run away from home and no longer believes he is worthy of love and worse, no longer worthy to be known as Mufasa’s son. Then he meets the monkey Rafiki who helps Simba reclaim his identity. In this beautiful scene, Rafiki says to Simba,
“Look into the water, and see your father.”
Simba looks and says with disappointment, “That’s not my father, that’s just my reflection.”
“No, Look harder,” Rafiki says encouragingly, “see in your reflection, your father lives in you.”
Then Simba begins to see his Father and miraculously begins to hear his Father’s voice: “Simba you have forgotten who you are, and so forgotten me. Remember who you are, you are my son!”
Have we forgotten who we are…?
When we believe we have committed the worst sin, and are unworthy of forgiveness… we have forgotten who we are.
When we believe we have to earn other love from others or even earn God’s love …. We have forgotten who we are.
If we believe holiness is impossible… or, in other words, we will never be good enough… we have forgotten who we are!
So, when we begin to believe that our sins define us and that they make us unworthy of God’s love, we need to remember who we are – we need to hold on to our identity in Christ. Trever Lawrence was asked how he plays so calm under pressure as a freshman quarterback. He said, its because he knows that no matter what, whether he plays poorly or well, all that matters is what “Christ thinks of me and what I believe Christ thinks of me.”
When we believe we have to earn God’s love, all we need to do is look at the cross. That’s what earned our salvation. That is the sign of our worth. We are worth it. You are worth it. God loved you that much, that he died for you. There is nothing more we need to do in order to “buy” God’s love.
Holiness is possible. Why, because you are baptized. And you are good enough! God has made each of us with our own particular gifts and talents. You are good enough. Remember who you are. You are a child of God loved by the Father.
Friends, over the past several months I have struggled with all three of these… Bishop assigned as the associate vocations director of the diocese last spring in addition to my duties here. And there have been times where I have felt that I’m not doing either well. And so, this fall there have been times of doubt and struggle and I was looking forward to my time in Rome. To some time for prayer away.
I was walking around the city, and my buddy and I found a random church; one of the 900… My buddy and I went inside. It was beautiful by our standards, average by Rome’s. I found the side altar where the Blessed Sacrament was kept. I sat there and prayed for a few minutes and then looked up. I saw, written in Latin, the words we heard in our Gospel today, you are my beloved son, with you I am well pleased. And friends, in that moment, I heard the Heavenly Father say, “Stephen, stop trying to be perfect. Don’t lose hope. Don’t despair of your sins. You are a good priest. Remember who you are. You are my son. With you I am well pleased.”
Friends, this weekend, Jesus wants to remind each of us that he has given us the power to become children of God, because we too have been baptized in Christ. And the Father says to us, just as he said to his son, “You are my beloved sons and daughters, with you I am well pleased. Remember who you are. Remember You are my child!”
In Christ’s Love and Friendship,