The Gospel has words that we need to hear over and over and over again: “You are my beloved child; with you, I am well pleased.” Yes, you might think that those words apply to Jesus at his Baptism. But they also apply to us because of our Baptism. Baptism has made us beloved sons and daughters of God, and nothing can ever take away that status. Nothing.
Now you may be thinking: “With all my faults and sins and skeletons in the closet, how can I possibly be loved so much?” Well, that’s the nature of God’s grace. It has absolutely nothing to do with our own merits or lack of merit. It has nothing to do with how sinful we are or how sinless we are. We are God’s beloved because that’s the way God wants it to be. We have no choice.
When I was growing up, I never really knew this God, and I suspect the same can be said for anyone over 50. You and I were raised in a Catholicism which on most moral issues was brutally uncompromising. It asked you not to sin, not to make mistakes. But we did sinand of course, that gave rise to much guilt and fear of God’s punishment.
However, I came to see that the Catholicism that I was raised in had a fault: it did not allow for mistakes. It demanded that you get it right the first time. There was supposed to be no need for a second chance.
But would you act that way towards your own flesh and blood? One strike and you’re out? If you wouldn’t, why would God act that way towards we who are his flesh and blood? God does not just give us one chance, but a second, third, fourth, and fifth chance that are just as valid as the first one. We are asked to take sin seriously, but when we do sin, when we do make mistakes, we are given the chance to take our place among the broken, among those whose lives are not perfect, the loved sinners, those for whom Christ came.
Our Baptism is the guarantee that mistakes are not forever. God loves us as sinners and the task of Christianity is not to teach us how to live, but to teach us how to live again, and again, and again. This is why we renew our Baptismal promises again and again and again.to remind ourselves of the fact that life does go on, and like a little child learning to walk, we get up and try againand againagainand maybe someday we’ll get it right.