“And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly, the heavens were opened to him and there was the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” – Matthew 3: 16-17
OK, I’ll fess up…I really want a tattoo. Not something gaudy but a nice tasteful Dominican Cross or the Dominican Sister of Peace Shield or a Peace Dove on the underside of my wrist. To put this in context, I just spent the past seven years in New York City where tattoos are the rage. Beautiful, exotic body art covers arms, legs, necks. Tattooing has become so popular that they’re on everyone from teens to little old ladies… on chefs to Wall Street brokers.
As I was agonizing over whether to get one of these little bits of art, it occurred to me that I already have a kind of tattoo. It’s the indelible mark I received at my baptism and it admitted me into the Catholic branch of the Body of Christ. Unlike tattoos that might fade or go out of style, this indelible mark will never dull or lose its relevance.
This Sunday, we hear the story of Jesus’ baptism by John. Just as Jesus leaves the water, he hears, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” Now Jesus is just beginning his public ministry, he hasn’t really done anything and yet God is well pleased with him. Pleased with what? He hasn’t even started his career yet. Not a single miracle. Yet God is pleased because Jesus IS…because he is God’s beloved.
Most of us are baptized when we are babies. We haven’t done much of anything at this point. But that doesn’t matter to God. God is willing to mark us – tattoo us – with an indelible, unremovable, unfadeable, forever sign of God’s love for us just because we exist. WOW! That is so much better that having a tattoo on the inside of my wrist.
As we wrap up the Christmas season with Jesus’ baptism, it might be good to take a few minutes to reflect on this fabulous gift of God’s unconditional love for each of us – a love freely given regardless of who we are or what we have or have not done. Who needs a tattoo to remember this?