Sixty-three years ago in 1959, John Howard Griffin wrote the best-selling book, Black Like Me. It was the story of how Griffin darkened his skin with medical treatments and traveled through the deep South of the United States. He wanted to experience the racial divisions of our country. The only way to know what it was like to be black, Griffin decided, was to become black himself.
His six-week odyssey through the South as a black person was a journey into racism. He was given the “hate stare” by dozens of white strangers. He was stalked by a white young man. He was insulted and disrespected by whites in nearly every encounter he had. Griffin’s book helped lay the foundation for the early civil rights movement. It sold over 10 million copies.
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of Jesus. As we hear today’s Gospel (Luke 3:15-16, 21-22), we are immediately confronted with a problem. John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. Sinful people were coming to John to be baptized in the Jordan River.
John is surprised to see Jesus coming to him for baptism. John realizes that Jesus has no sins for the waters of the Jordan to wash away. Jesus by now realizes that God the Father has a special plan for him. Jesus is the one who will show men and women how to have a personal relationship with God. To fulfill his mission and to bring about God’s Kingdom, Jesus came into the world as a baby. Jesus was just like us in all things but sin.
In order for Jesus to be like us, he identifies with us in all that we do, even baptism. Just like John Howard Griffin became black in order to understand the experiences and difficulties of black people, Jesus became a human person, like us. He undergoes baptism to understand what sin causes, without being a sinner himself.
This Feast of the Baptism of Jesus invites us to think of our own baptism. Many of us were infants and asleep or cried our way through it. In many respects it was the most important day of our life. We are not just someone’s child with a mom and a dad. We are God’s Child!
The heavens opened up for Jesus at his baptism and God spoke: “You are my beloved son with whom I am well pleased.” God was whispering those same words when you and I were baptized. “You are my beloved son…daughter.” A beloved is someone who pleases God. That is how we are to live – by doing and saying what pleases God.
One of the basic questions we need to ask ourselves is: “Do we really see ourselves as beloved…as a precious child of God, put on this earth to do and to say what is pleasing to God? Most of the time I kid myself because I do and I say what is pleasing to ME. I am beloved to ME!
And besides myself, do I see others as beloved to God as well? Even though 63 years has gone by since John Howard Griffin wrote his book, racism, intolerance and prejudice still very much exist in our midst and in our hearts. Just ask someone who is black, brown, gay or an immigrant. Oh the stories they can tell you!
Define yourself radically as one beloved by God. THIS IS YOUR TRUE SELF! Every other identity you have is an illusion. God’s love for you and God’s choice of you constitute your worth. Accept that and let it become the most important thing in your life.
Do YOU truly and fully see yourself as beloved by God? Please reflect upon YOUR answer.
LIVE YOUR LIFE TODAY, CONFIDENT THAT YOU ARE GOD’S BELOVED!