“This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). These are the words that God speaks out over Jesus as he is baptized. What a fantastic affirmation!! Can you imagine how it must have made Jesus feel to have his heavenly Father declare how much he loved his son, how proud he was of him? Which one of us would not love to receive such words of esteem and affection spoken over us by our own fathers? Some people spend their whole lives limping along under the burden of never having had their fathers affirm them as children. They seem to be always seeking the approval of their dads, even when they are adults and their fathers are long dead.
We can also labor under the conviction all our lives that God is also displeased with us, that we are always falling short of his approval. The truth of the matter, however, is that at our baptism, God is always speaking over us the same words he speaks over Jesus at his baptism: “This is my beloved son/my beloved daughter. I am so proud of them.” At our baptism, St Paul says in Romans 8: 15-16, “you received a spirit of adoption, so you can cry: Abba! Father!” as the Spirit bears witness within us that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.”
For centuries before Christ, there had been no prophetic voice in Israel, speaking forth the words of God to his people. The heavens themselves seemed closed against them. No wonder the prophet Isaiah had cried out on their behalf: ‘O that you would tear open the heavens and come down!!” (64:1). For a people used to God always being in communication with them, this silence from Him was terribly hard to bear, the more so as they understood that it was their sinful rebellion against God that had led to this breakdown in communication. That is why it is so significant that Matthew depicts the heavens opening at Jesus’ baptism and God’s voice ringing out. It signified that God was once more willing to communicate with Israel, that he wanted reconciliation with them, and that Jesus, his own Son, was going to be the means for that renewed communication and reconciliation. “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased” God’s voice speaks again over Jesus at his transfiguration (Matthew 17:6) before going on to say “Listen to Him!”
It is Jesus, the Word of God, who now reveals God’s heart to us. If you are feeling that heaven seems shut to you, so that you cannot hear anything from God, ask Jesus to “tear open the heavens” for you. Ask him to reveal to you how much God loves you, how proud he is of you, how much he delights in you as His beloved son or daughter.