One of my aunts was so proud that I was a priest. She loved introducing me to people as her nephew, Father Maurice—with a little pause before the word “Father”, so that people would be listening. It was always a bit embarrassing for me to hear that, yet it would always give me a little “push” to do the best I could.
I can’t help but think of that as I read this weekend’s gospel passage. In describing Jesus’ baptism, Matthew tells us that “a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’” Think about that for a moment.
Jesus, even though he was always fully God, didn’t start his ministry until after he saw the Spirit of God descending on him and heard the voice of the Father proclaim to the people that Jesus is his Son, that he loves Jesus, and that he is pleased with him. It is in the strength of that affirmation that Jesus has the courage and strength to go out into the desert and then to begin his ministry. I like to imagine that it was the memory of that baptismal event that would give him the extra push he needed to keep at his ministry when he was being rejected and misunderstood. In my own life and ministry it has often been those affirmations by others, whether from my aunt letting others know that I was “her nephew the priest”, to Bishop Fabbro having the confidence in me to ask me to be pastor of our upcoming Family of Parishes, and so many other instances.
It makes me wonder as well just how often I affirm others with whom I relate. Sometimes a public “You are appreciated” can make a big difference in a person’s life. Even a private word of praise can buoy a person up. How about you? Perhaps there is someone in your life who would benefit from hearing, especially in front of others, that you appreciate them, that you care for them. Jesus’ baptism is a turning point. In his life, it marked the beginning of his public ministry. In the Church, the feast marks the end of the Christmas season and the beginning of “Ordinary Time”. Could your affirmation of someone, your acknowledgment of your care, be the beginning of something new?
And as we look to the beginning of something new for our parishes, I ask your prayer and your support as we begin our transition phase to becoming a “Family”. I ask for your prayer, look forward to your input, and promise you my prayer as we journey forward.