Called to Serve: A Homily by Deacon Jim Hyatt

Have you ever had someone compliment you or thank you in front of other people? We love that don’t we? We like the recognition, that thank you that makes us feel good. The “good job” from a friend or client can make our day. I know for me that “job well done” comment can make my whole week! 

In the Gospel today, we have a huge, heaven sent kudo to top all other kudos when our heavenly Father tells Jesus, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” We all want to hear God say that to us right? Imagine one day after you have made a difference in someone’s life you hear God say to you, “You are my beloved daughter”, or “you are my beloved son, with you I am well pleased.” Wow! You’d feel pretty good huh? I know I would too.

So why did the Father say that to Jesus? Why was he well pleased? Was it because Jesus is his only Son and fathers are naturally pleased with their kids? Or was it maybe because of a different reason? To understand this a little bit better, we need go back to re-read what preceded this heavenly statement.

John the Baptist had been teaching the crowds about what they must do to inherit eternal life. He taught them and they were, “filled with expectation” that he was the Christ. John said, “Hold it right there, I am not even close. There is one mightier than me coming, He is the one.” 

And we all know the story, Jesus comes, is baptized by John and the Holy Spirit descends upon Him right there at the river Jordan. But there are two things that are important in this scripture passage that are easy to miss. First, it says, “After all the people were baptized.” All the people were baptized with the same baptism that Jesus was, and not until after that did Jesus himself get baptized. Jesus wanted all of them, and all of us, to share in the same baptism with Him. Why does he want that for us? So that we too can receive the Holy Spirit, which we all received at our own baptisms.

The second point that is easy to miss here is interesting. It says that after Jesus had been baptized, He was praying. It was by his prayer that he opened himself up to receive the Holy Spirit and it was at that point that the Father said those words we all long to hear: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” 

So let’s go back to my earlier question, why did the Father say this to Jesus? And just as importantly, why and when would he say this to us? It was not just that Jesus prayed, and not just that he received the Holy Spirit, it was what he would do with the Holy Spirit in his life that pleases the Father. We know that he taught, he healed, and he sought out the sick and those discarded by society. He literally was God on Earth doing God’s work, and his Father was “well pleased.” 

So what about us? What are we doing with the Holy Spirit we received at baptism? That is a question I have been asking myself – what am I doing or what should I be doing empowered by the Holy Spirit? We know that God’s work gets done on earth through people, and many in our community already do so much, but maybe for others this is where we need to start. Jesus came not to be served, but to serve… so maybe that can be our motto – find ways to serve. And with this never ending pandemic, there is a trail of hurt and damaged people along the side of the road of life that need help and need hope. And hope has been in short supply.

When I looked at the first reading from Isaiah, I felt like it too was telling us the same thing – we all have a responsibility to serve and help others. It says, “Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God.” I like the sound of that, especially now. This is not only the antidote to hope in short supply in our communities, it is also an explicit formula to do his work on earth, to receive that kudo, that “well done” from God. 

Interesting timing for us as we are in the season for New Year’s resolutions. Maybe this is where we can focus. You know, inside all of us we have a desire to help others and that is no coincidence. That desire was placed there by God so that we would answer that call to serve. People have done it for us in our lifetimes, we need to pay it forward. So maybe as we begin a new year, we can remain open to God and what he may ask of us, and when the time is right, we can serve for him. 

And by doing so we, as God’s children, may we get to hear, “You are my beloved daughter” or “you are my beloved son, with you I am well pleased.”

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