Saturday, January 12, 2019

“I Am Well Pleased” By Rev. Paul Berghout (@FatherPB)

“I Am Well Pleased” By Rev. Paul Berghout (@FatherPB)

Thus, says the LORD: Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with

whom I am pleased, upon whom I have put my spirit; he shall bring forth justice to the nations, not crying out, not shouting, not making his voice heard in the street. a bruised reed he shall not break, and a smoldering wick he shall not quench until he establishes justice on the earth; the coastlands will wait for his teaching. Isaiah 42:1-4

“You know the word that he sent to the Israelites as he proclaimed peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all, what has happened all over Judea,
beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached, how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power. He went about doing good
and healing all those oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.” Acts 10:36-38

After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, "You are my beloved Son; with you, I am well pleased."  Luke 3:21-22

Let’s look at the dove and the voice at Jesus’ baptism.

“And as he was praying, heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove.”

A dove is a symbol of peace and innocence; symbolizing the divine presence. The descent of a bird, in particular, a dove, upon a chosen person as a sign was a common motif in the surrounding ancient culture back then.[i]

A baptized infant cannot respond with personal faith; thus, the baptism remains “unreleased.” Later, at confirmation, the child must make that faith his own. The difference is the “capacity to believe” bestowed upon an infant at baptism, that must become an explicit, personal faith that is at the heart of discipleship, which is when we sense the dove over us. The Reverend Cantalamessa says that baptism remains “unreleased” in the lives of most Christians who are baptized in infancy. He is careful to spell out, though, that experiencing the Holy Spirit working in one’s life is not in itself a sacrament, and that the sacrament of confirmation is the true seal of baptism. [ii]

When the dove hovers over us, we have confessed in the Sacrament of Confession, which renews our baptism which is when we first had our sins washed away, including original sin.

For example, a lady tells about a baptism service that took place at her large parish church. There were 102 people scheduled to be baptized. The men wore black robes; the women wore white robes. During the baptism, the dye from the black robes began to make the water look dirty, and this lady heard two little boys behind her discussing the matter.

“How come the water is getting so dirty?” the first boy asked.

“That’s their sins being washed away,” replied the second boy.

Sam Houston was the first president of the Republic of Texas. It’s said that he was a rather nasty fellow with a checkered past. Later in life, he made a commitment to Christ and was baptized in a river. The preacher who baptized him said, “Sam, your sins are washed away.”

Houston replied, “God help the fish.”

Believing and trusting in Jesus is not the new birth, but only the first step in the process of being born again. Being a new creation happens by baptism.

We Catholics baptize babies, and some Protestant’s do, too. We believe the babies are justified or saved at that point. How many good works have a baby done? None. Salvation and being born again happens by 100% God’s grace and zero good works.

For infants, the sponsors (Godparents) profess their faith in Christ in the child's name and accept the responsibility of instructing the child in the faith.

But it happens by grace alone. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8)

So, we are saved by grace alone, through faith and baptism.

The voice: “You are my beloved Son; with you, I am well pleased.” 

A country preacher might translate it: "This is my boy, and I am proud of him." Jesus needed to know God's approval. This is the answer of a child craving for the parents' approval. It frees us from the compulsion as adults of needing to be good enough for mother or father.

“For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you.” 1 (Thessalonians 1:4)

Norman Mailer and his son -- the "next generation"
John Buffalo Mailer
Norman Mailer reflected on this in his autobiography: "When I was young, my father wrote me a letter when I was eighteen years old, in the aftermath of a trip home from college when I expressed my displeasure with the collegiate life. He listened to me intently, and, though I sensed he was listening to my justification, I was not convinced I had made my case. I walked away feeling as though I had been a disappointment to my father and was ashamed of my inability to stand up to the challenges of life. Several days later I received a lengthy letter from my father—the only piece of paternal correspondence I possess—which incorporated his life's wisdom. After a recent conversation with my daughter, I had reason to pull out my father's letter and read it again, over thirty years after he penned it. The conclusion to his letter provokes emotion: "Please don't ever feel that I am disappointed in you or that I ever will be. You are my son and I am most pleased with you. God bless you. Keep the faith. Dad." The scriptural allusion is powerful.
Norman Mailer continues, “I have children of my own now and I have come to realize that they, too, may be seeking my blessing and approval. It is now in my power to grant my children the blessing bestowed upon me; again, not for what they have done, but for who they are. I have made a decision not to bequeath to my children the inheritance of never being good enough for their father, but to pass to their generation the blessing of the ages: 'You are my beloved child, with whom I am well pleased." Like my father's blessing upon me, it is my hope that my blessing will provide them with a spiritual power, which will enable them to surmount all of life's obstacles.”

[i] Source: GRESSMANN, p 332, Archiv fur Religionswissenschaft.

[ii] Raniero Cantalamessa, Sober Intoxication of the Spirit (Cincinnati, OH: St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2005), 42.

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