Thursday, January 30, 2014

There is Power in the Light

Presentation of the Lord

The party’s over! Or has it just begun? Today the Church celebrates the Presentation of the Lord which occurs forty days after the birth of Jesus. According to Jewish Law, a mother who has recently delivered her child, has to come to the Temple to undergo the ritual of purification and present her first born son forty days after his birth. Thus, this Feast goes by two names: The Presentation of Our Lord at the Temple, and the Purification of Mary. It was also commonly known as Candlemas as you had already witnessed candles were traditionally blessed on this day. This Feast also marks an ending. According to the old liturgical calendar, this day marks the end of the Christmas season, time to turn off the Christmas lights, take down that old Christmas tree and put away all our Christmas decorations.

But this feast also has a third name; the Feast of the Encounter, commemorating the encounter of the Holy Family with the devout old man Simeon and the prophetess Anna in the Temple. Blinded by old age and having experienced long hours of prayer in the shadowy precinct of the Temple, Simeon was keenly aware that the light of his vision and that of his life, already dimmed, would soon go out. But as Simeon would demonstrate, a whole world awaits us when you turn off the lights. Simeon awakens to new hope.  Life begins to stir at the end of a spiritual or emotional winter when the end is in sight. For Simeon, this was an ending that promised a new beginning. This end is exactly what he has been waiting for. He had invested all his years in the Jewish way of life, and yet now he embraced its passing. It’s more like the conclusion of an extended Advent - the sight of that little group in the Temple, one family among so many others, is the answer to a life-time’s waiting and prayer. It’s a poignant scene: Mary brings her newborn to the Temple, and this old man, probably all but blind physically, somehow has the spiritual sight to see something - some scrap of hope for the future - in this forty-day-old child.  

On seeing the child, he rejoices and burst into song. The song that he sings after that encounter is called in Latin, the Nunc Dimittis after the first few words: “At last, all-powerful Master …” and it’s been sung for centuries the world over at our night prayer. The Canticle explains the reason for his overwhelming joy at this encounter, “For my eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared for all nations, the light to enlighten the Gentiles and give glory to Israel, your people.” The light which Simeon sings of is none other than Christ who came to ransom us while we were still slaves, to lead us from the prison of darkness into the freedom of the children of light. The theme of ‘light’ has inspired the birth of the procession of lighted candles that marked the start of our celebrations. St Sophronius puts it this way, “Our lighted candles are a sign of the divine splendour of the one who comes to expel the dark shadows of evil and to make the whole universe radiant with the brilliance of his eternal light. Our candles also show how bright our souls should be when we go to meet Christ.”

Today we witness once again the interplay of shadow and light. In fact, shadow and light are the reality of our lives and our world. We could all tell a story of what it was like to live in the shadowy places. Sometimes we go there by our own choices or actions and other times as a result of someone else’s action or simply through the circumstances of life. Sometimes we hide in the darkness avoiding the light because of our shame or guilt. We presume that the shadows will conceal the cause of our shame. Other times we live in the night of fear not knowing what will come next or how we will handle it. There is s sense of powerlessness and life seems out of control. There are those times when the black hole of sorrow and grief sucks out the life and the light of our world and we seem unable to escape the darkness. Sometimes we experience the darkness of ignorance and confusion. We are blind to our own identity, lost on the path of life, seemingly without meaning or direction. And then there is the darkness of our larger world and society, the bleak and uncertain future, the injustice we constantly witness, the insurmountable problems that beset us. 

But as Simeon would discover, there is a light which no darkness can keep out, there is a light which the darkness cannot defeat, there is a light which persist to shine in the darkness. No matter how large the shadows or how dark the night the light is still present. It was symbolised today by our candlelit procession. That little flickering flame you carried was the reminder that Christ – “a light to enlighten the Gentiles” – is with you. Even when we extinguished our candles the light did not go away. It is within you and it always has been, always will be. How do we know this to be true? Simeon stands as witness. Yes, Simeon was blind. Yes, Simeon saw salvation. But he did not see with physical eyes. He saw with the eyes of faith. Simeon experienced an inner seeing, he sees with the ‘light’ which ‘enlightens’.

Something happens when we encounter the light. There is power in this light. It is a light which conquers the darkness. Wherever there is the least bit of light, darkness is forced to flee.  You can be in the darkest place imaginable and just a tiny match, when lit, has the power to drive away all that black, oppressive darkness.  When life loses its lustre, when drudgery makes the going painful and slow, this light can colour the drabness. Without light, our world would be dark and it would be drab. There would be no colour. But with light, a dreary world becomes brighter, and even the coldest chill will thaw. The light also gives life and thus is the enemy of death.  God uses the light of our witness and testimony to warm the dead sinner’s heart and to draw them to Jesus for salvation. Our light, which is really His light being reflected by us, is a means of bringing the life of Heaven to the dead ones on earth. And then there is the light which brings order to chaos – a light which sets everything right, in its proper place and order.

But that Light and that Illumination also proves revelatory. They reveal mercy and forgiveness in the shadows of guilt and shame, presence and courage in the night of fear, compassion and hope in the black holes of sorrow and loss, a way forward in the blindness of ignorance and confusion, and life in the darkness of death. The flame of God’s love consumes the darkness, fills us, and frees us to go in peace just as God promised. But every revelation is also a bittersweet reality. Truths, often painful truth, which lie hidden, are unearthed. God’s salvation will be costly, not only for Jesus, but also for those who love him. So, instead of offering Mary congratulations on her fine son, Simeon greets her with words of mystery and foreboding, and prophesies that a “sword shall pierce” her heart. This prophecy does not only reveal the suffering which the mother must endure, but also provides a glimpse of what is to become of the Son. In the light which enlightens, we see the silhouette of the cross.  But it is in the cross, that Christians will behold their brightest light – the light of the resurrection, God’s final victory over death, sin and darkness!

And that is God’s promise to us on Candlemas Day: that whatever we’re going through, light and hope will win out in the end. In the Northern hemisphere winter isn’t over, and we still have the long season of Lent ahead before we reach the spring and then Easter, but for now we have this service and these candles to remind us of God’s promise to see us through the darkness and lead us into light. Then, we will see the Church filled with the light of our candles. But even now, we can say with certainty, we have seen salvation and Simeon’s song has now become ours too.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Poised Between Light and Darkness

Third Ordinary Sunday Year A

Recent events have had a shattering effect. Darkness looms all around. Rising prices, escalating religious tension, increased hostility and bigotry, ascending crime rate, rampant corruption - collectively paint an ominous future. It’s hard not to fall into the trap of cynicism. And so many indeed have fallen into the mire of despondency and hopelessness, wondering whether the only option would be to bail out of this country before it’s too late. I guess our present situation makes it easy to resonate and identify with that group of people Isaiah refers to in the first reading, a passage which St Matthew the Evangelist reiterates in the gospel, “the people that walked in darkness … those who live in the land of deep shadow.” Though darkness and shadow seem all pervasive, it is that same darkness that makes us open to welcome the soothing rays of light. This unsettling truth emerges – real hope is often possible when it has passed through the crucible of pain and disappointment.

Light and darkness, harvest and famine as naturally occurring phenomena have readily lent themselves to the scriptural authors as symbols of goodness and evil, life and death, salvation and perdition. When Isaiah proclaimed the oracle that comprises today’s first reading, he perceived as darkness and gloom the fact that the northern kingdom was tottering under the blows of foreign oppression. For those who regarded this political crisis in the north as the death knell for the southern kingdom, Isaiah held out the hope of a new harvest, the hope of a light in the darkness, i.e., the hope for the salvation that the Lord alone could effect for his faithful ones. Just as he attributed the dark shadows of defeat of the northern tribes to God’s just chastisement of an unfaithful people, so too, Isaiah promised that spiritual and ethical fidelity would be blessed with the light of victory and political stability.

Read in the context of the Christmas midnight mass and today’s first reading, the Isaian prophecy forms an apt description of what the birth of Jesus and his public ministry meant for the world living in darkness. Christ is the light who shines in the darkness of human need and suffering, Jesus’ advent is the saving dawn, the penetrating ray of justice and truth. We need the light of Christ shining as a beacon of hope into our darkness and shadowy experiences.

In the second reading, we are confronted with the painful truth that darkness is not just a reality kept at bay outside the confines of our Church. The truth of the matter is that the dark has insidiously crept into the church and resides within its shadows. Personality cults, political affiliations, ideological positions threatened to break the unity of the Church of Corinth. Four competing groups had emerged with each claiming that its own leader was superior to other leaders and therefore that its version of the gospel was superior to that of the other groups. Paul, himself, had been dragged into this factious battle. Directly confronting each of these factional groups, and even his own party stalwarts, Paul reminded the Christians in Corinth of their basic unity in Christ. That unity, challenged Paul, was to supersede every human preference and was superior to every human wisdom, however attractive. With the light of Christ at her centre, the darkness of her members will never overcome the Church.

We continue to witness how the light of Christ can penetrate the darkness of humanity in the gospel today. It begins on a troubling note – a moment of darkness for Jesus - John the Baptist, his cousin and in some respects his mentor, has just been arrested by Herod for his defiant preaching in response to Herod's marriage. After hearing of the arrest of John, St Matthew tells us that Jesus withdrew to Galilee. Outwardly this may seem to be motivated by a feeling of personal defeat and fear. Such a reading may indicate the uncontested victory of darkness over the light, indeed over the very source of Light. But, Jesus’ withdrawal is not a flight from danger or a retreat into security. He withdraws to Galilee to prepare for a major comeback. It was like the dark sky right before the bright Morning Star appears. To defeat the darkness, he understands that he must enter into the very maelstrom of that darkness; he must be totally identified with the people characterised by Isaiah as the ones ‘who walked in darkness’ and ‘live in a deep shadow.’  The solution would have to come in an intrinsic way; God’s work of salvation has to be accomplished through the ministry of proclaiming a life-changing gospel. Jesus will reveal that the kingdom which he preaches is far more fundamentally interwoven in human existence with the power to transform that existence.

By referring to the beginning of his public ministry in the northern territory of Galilee, a place that had come under foreign domination and infiltration thus sullying the pure blood lines of the Jewish people, St Matthew desires to show how the light of Jesus’ ministry is meant to illuminate the religiously impoverished hinterland of humanity in need of salvation. Here, begins to proclaim the core of his preaching, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.” Repentance does not just mean expressing sorrow for one’s wrongdoing. It is more than that. It is turning away from the past, away from sin, away from the darkness which we have been accustomed to live with, in order that we may turn to the light, to the kingdom of heaven, to Christ himself, the new dawn of creation and first light of salvation.

The irony thickens with the call of ordinary Galilean fishermen as his first disciples. Jesus does not venture into this great project alone; instead, he enlists disciples from all walks of life. It is not the righteous, the religiously qualified, the catechetically informed and educated, those insulated from the putrid darkness, who are called to embrace this mission of bringing light to the darkness of the world but those whose lives interspersed with light darkness. In fact, the choice will fall upon these fishermen, whose amphibious lifestyle, represent humanity poised between light and darkness, they could go either way. But then the light of Christ proves triumphant. The disciples immediately heed his call –they choose to follow the light and to leave the darkness behind. Therefore, these first disciples act as a kind of canvass in which is displayed that monumental battle between light and darkness, a battle which would foretell the coming of what is in store for the world.

If we had the power to save humanity, where, with whom and how would we begin? There is a valuable, albeit paradoxical, lesson to be learned in the divine plan. To preach the most eloquent news the world would ever know, God chose simple Galilean fishermen. He drew together into a community people who had lost sight of that good news and became instead enamoured of its various messengers. He taught the lessons of freedom through slavery’s chains and let his people discover light through the lessons of darkness.

And so here we are in the ordinariness of our daily existence, each moment poised between light and darkness – confronted with so many choices. We can choose to be positive or to be consumed by the negative, to live with hopeful optimism or cynical pessimism, to be children of the Light or of Darkness, to follow Christ or the world. It is a simple choice. It is a choice to be made by everyone, a choice that can change us and change our lives and change the world all around us. We can choose to be victims and be silent participants of a world that seems darkened by sin and death, drugs and violence, loneliness and despair, injustice and poverty, hostility and bigotry, hopelessness and cynicism, or we could choose to shine the light of Christ therein and allow that light to transform everything it touches. In the light of Christ, our vision is renewed, our strength rejuvenated, and our story changes - we come to realise that our story can be a story not of despair but one of hope, a journey from heartbreak to happiness, a journey from the dark into the light.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Ecce Agnus Dei Ecce Homo Ecce Deus

Second Ordinary Sunday Year A

The implementation of the New Translation of the Roman Missal has been personally cathartic. Despite the widespread criticisms of those who had grown accustomed to the pedestrian style of the former translation, I felt that the present text, more sacred in its orientation and faithful to the original Latin, is a wake-up to dozy priests like me. All of a sudden, the text reveals a whole plethora and multi-layers of meaning, obscured by the inadequacies of the previous translation. One section of the new translation of the Mass which illustrates these points is the invitation to communion. In the 1970 translation the priest said, “This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Happy are those who are called to his supper.” Now the priest says, “Behold the Lamb of God. Behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those who are called to the supper of the Lamb.”

Of course, the archaic sounding ‘behold’ is not a common word that we would use in our everyday conversations though it is a more accurate translation of the Latin, “Ecce”. More importantly, the nuances of “Behold” convey a deeper meaning than the rather flat “this is.” “Behold” carries a connotation of contemplation and wonder. We use the word when confronted with a thing of wonder or great beauty. When the priest says ‘Behold,” there is something majestic and magnificent about what he wishes to convey as he elevates the Host. “This is”, on the other hand, has an air of mere factual statement about it but conveys no depth. “Behold,” is also an affirmation of fact, but it also contains within it an invitation, to focus on him, on the One whom we are about to receive in Holy Communion. In fact, to behold means to cast our attention on Jesus. It is more than just an invitation to see and look. The word actually means "to give one's undivided attention."

Then there is the scriptural allusion which draws our attention to today’s gospel text. The new translation makes the quotation of today’s gospel text clearer, the priest invites us to see what St John the Baptist saw and wishes his disciples to see. John did not use the rather tepid words “this is”. Rather the original Greek is ‘ide,’ which is an exclamation, and is matched well in English by “behold!” The invitation to ‘behold’ helps us then to better visualise John the Baptist spotting his cousin Jesus, pointing a finger in his direction and thundering out in his loud prophetic voice that had made so many quaked, “Behold the Lamb of God! Behold him who takes away the sins of the world!” The Baptist reveals to us that he is not the object of our expectation, our adulation or our worship.

The next day, John is standing with two disciples. Again he sees Jesus coming towards them, and for the sake of his disciples he repeats the words, ‘Behold the Lamb of God’.  This time these words are directed to his own disciples. The Baptist acts as a kind of sign-post – testifying to the one who is greater than he. John points away from himself to Jesus. It is clear from that account that John the Baptist intended his own disciples to leave him and join Jesus. They were now to turn their attention away from the Baptist and give their undivided attention to the Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He understands that his own ministry will end. The time has come for them to follow the Messiah.

What does John expect his disciples and all of us to behold? What did he mean when he conferred on Jesus the beautiful title of the ‘Lamb of God’? First, the “Lamb of God” is not a phrase from the scriptures that is traditionally associated with the Messiah. There is one verse in Isaiah (53:7) where the “Suffering Servant” is described as “a lamb that is led to slaughter”. For the Jews, the image of a lamb would resonate with the sacrifices of the Temple. Unblemished lambs were sacrificed every morning and evening in the Temple as a sin offering, and also at the great annual festival of Passover to mark the great event of Israel’s liberation. John’s gospel supports this motif by stating that Jesus was slain at the very time that the Passover lambs were being killed in the Temple. But then, John does not stop with the title ‘Lamb of God, but introduces a further imagery – “who takes away the sin of the world.” This seems to recall the scapegoat, over whose head the Jewish High Priest confessed the sins of the people on the Day of Atonement. The goat was then driven away into the wilderness, as a sign that God in his mercy had removed far away the sins of the people. So added to the Passover themes of deliverance and rescue, of freedom from slavery, is the theme of atonement for our sins.  

The words of John the Baptist finds a parallel, a sort of parody, at the end of the gospel of John. Pontius Pilate presents him, flogged, bloodied, crown with thorns, before an angry mob crying out for his execution. Pontius Pilate announces to them, “Ecce Homo” (Latin), “Behold the Man”.  This disfigured person seems too human in comparison to the idealised image of the Messiah they were expecting – a man of skin, blood and bones. “Behold the man!” Pilate didn’t know what he was saying, but John the apostle did. Jesus is the perfect man. The image of the invisible God, the beginning and the end, the One in whom all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell. The one who shows us what God always intended humanity to be like. He is the One who takes the shame of our sin and bears the mockery of evil. The masterpiece of God’s creative work. When, therefore, Pilate sarcastically introduced Jesus with: “Behold, the man!” he said far more than he knew. “Behold, the man!” — indeed! We see before not just a Man, we see before us the Invisible God, made visible!

One of the great challenges of our time and even for the first disciples of Jesus was making sense of his being crucified. If he truly was the Son of God why did he suffer and die? Even the resurrection does not stifle this questioning, that Jesus rose from the dead does not make his suffering and dying any less real and problematic. But the answer to this problem at the end of the story is found at its very beginning. It was the same two disciples who had followed John the Baptist who remembered his cryptic words “Behold, the Lamb of God!” and made the connection between the innocent Jesus and the lamb of Passover; linking his passing with the events of Exodus. The first disciples of Jesus preached his death not as a defeat, but as a sacrifice that takes away the sins of the world. Their ideas crystallised around the phrase “Lamb of God” and from being something shameful the cross became their boast.

That is why Christian liturgy and art show just how powerful the image of Christ as “the Lamb of God” is for Christians. If you look for a lamb with a halo, often carrying the banner of the resurrection, you will find him in Church decoration, on vestments, sacred vessels, in liturgical books and Church bulletins throughout Christendom. Our Eucharistic liturgy still echoes the prophetic words of John the Baptist; the host is elevated and the priest says “Behold, the Lamb of God” – we are to look and recognise the innocent victim whose death takes our sins away. We recall Christ’s sacrifice as the Lamb of God, we recognise that in communion we taste forgiveness and life, liberation and salvation, the fruits and benefits of his passion. We behold Christ, in whom God has taken human flesh, and in seeing – beholding – Christ, we behold God. This is not just a man who has made Himself to be the Son of God. That was Pilate’s mistake. The Baptist understood and wanted his disciples to see what he saw. This is the Son of God who has made Himself the Man, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Ecce Agnus Dei! Ecce Homo! Ecce Deus!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

You don't have to be special

Baptism of the Lord – Year A

Often when I see long lines at the buffet counter of parish events, I’m tempted to just step up to the front of the line and cut into the inconveniently long queue. It’s based on the assumption that ‘I’m Special! I’m the Parish Priest!’ It makes it easier when most of the parishioners will acquiesce to this with hardly any resistance. I guess that there would be those who would silently mutter under their breath, ‘What makes him think he is so special?” If only, someone did say something, then that oversized bubble of illusory superiority would be deflated. Unfortunately, no one has stepped up to the challenge.

Perhaps, many people suffer from this cognitive bias where they overestimate their own importance in relation to others. They think they are ‘special.’ What does this imply? To be special means to be better, greater, or otherwise different from what is usual. It’s being exceptional, that is you’re exempted from the normal requirements that apply to the hoi poloi. I guess this explains the frequent phenomena of drivers beating the traffic light and exceeding speed limits. Those traffic laws simply don’t apply to them! Why? Because they are special! Or some can choose to bypass the red tape of dealing with the front desk staff and march straight into the manager’s office. Or the many who feel entitled to preferential treatment, oblivious to the inconvenience caused to others. It comes with the expectation that everyone else must bend backwards to accommodate their needs, simply because ‘They are Special!’ That explains why we love to hear our parents, our teachers, our motivational gurus remind us with that soothing mantra, ‘You are Special!’

But today we meet two persons in the gospel who stands out from the crowd and who seem immune to this culture of self- aggrandisement – John the Baptist and Jesus Christ. In fact, if there were any person who truly deserved the accolade of being called ‘special’ would be these two, and yet they brushed off any delusion of grandeur.  First we have the Baptist.  John is preparing the Messiah’s way, preaching a message of conversion and offering a baptism “for repentance.” Rather than to find a parallel with our present day sacrament of baptism, the baptism of St John the Baptist was more akin to a confession of sins. The Baptist had already deflected all attention given to his own ministry by pointing to one who is superior in rank and power. And then, the unexpected happens.

The Lamb of God – the paragon of purity; the one who is, in fact, God Incarnate – the Sinless One presents himself before the Herald and request for the baptism “for repentance” just like every regular sinner. This seems absurd, even sacrilegious. John the Baptist suggests as much: “It is I who need baptism from you … and yet you come to me.” The request of Jesus seems altogether incomprehensible and shocking. For instance: imagine Christ himself, standing in front of you in a line outside the Confessional before the start of the Mass. The analogy is imperfect, of course; but it conveys something of the shock that John the Baptist must have felt when Christ approached him by the river.

Thus, at the heart of today’s gospel is the example of how the Son of God, who did not reserve to himself the privilege of being exempted from the baptism of repentance, though he was truly sinless, but instead sought solidarity with every sinner: the Lord puts himself in the place of sinners, identifying with us in a supreme gesture of compassion. The Son of God comes to the river not only “as a man,” but precisely as if he were a wretched and sinful man. Such an act cannot “make sense” in the ordinary, common-sense way. Our Maker – in his absolute perfection – not only joins the human race, but identifies with us at our worst. Jesus, in the words of Pope Benedict XVI, “blends into the gray mass of sinners waiting on the banks of the Jordan.” Christ has come to the river “to place himself among sinners … to make himself a penitent with us.”

How could Jesus descend into the waters, in the first place? Why did he join the ranks of sinners, receiving a baptism “for repentance”? Surely this was not the only way in which God could have revealed his triune inner life. In the words of that great twentieth century mystic, Thomas Merton, “Christ came on earth, not to wear the awful cold beauty of a holy statue, but to be numbered among the wicked, to die as one of them … If Christ is not really my brother with all my sorrows, with all my burdens on His shoulder and all my poverty and sadness in His heart, then there has been no redemption.” Jesus, though perfectly pure, did not boast or revel in his own purity. He did not set himself up as someone special, in the sense of being better, greater, far surpassing others. In fact, it is because of his deliberate decision to stand with us, that we can be regarded as blessed!

We are finally drawn to the climax of the narrative – it’s all about the work of God. It’s never about being born this way or having earned this honour! As the heavens part to reveal the Spirit in the form of a dove, we hear a voice from above which expresses the Father's pleasure, recognising His Son, the Only Begotten, the Beloved. And that is simply the truth that exposes the fraud of what the world sells us. We are not special, we don’t need to be special. We are no different from anyone else. But that’s not all, we are loved by God, and that makes all the difference. At a very deep and basic level, that means that you and I have an important place in the very heart of God. And because of that, nobody can tell you that your life doesn’t matter. Nobody can tell you that you are unloved. Nobody can tell you that you don’t belong. Because in the eyes of God, your life does matter, you are loved, and you do belong! You don’t have to be ‘special’ to earn this!

A good friend of mine, Deacon Sherman Kuek, recently wrote a letter to his three year old son. I know what you are thinking, “Can a three year old understand the language used in this letter?” Well, I guess it was more of the learned deacon’s venting of his frustration with the whole social and educational machinery which is bent on trying to reinforce the illusory superiority of every individual. He writes, “As a father, I resent it when they lie to you about how you are so unique and special, and then go on to tell all other children the same thing about themselves. If this world was truly made up of such unique and special people, then we should logically be a society consisting of all highly successful, highly able, and highly rich people, and we would all be gods. I want you to know the truth that God made us ordinary. In fact, He even made Himself ordinary so that we could find Him among us. Let us not exalt ourselves beyond what we truly are.” But that doesn’t stop God from loving you, right?

The great Bishop Fulton Sheen reminds us that "Christmas is not a man making himself a god, but God becoming a man , without ever ceasing to be God. In the first instance, there is exaltation or self-inflation by which man makes himself what he is not. In the second instance, there is humiliation, for God takes on the form and habit of man." The devil hates this truth, and tries to hide it from us. That is one of many reasons the Church celebrates it, joyously, every year. Again and again, throughout our lives, we gather by the river – a “gray mass of sinners,” all-too-aware of our faults. And every time, we find the Messiah, our sinless Redeemer, standing in our midst as one of us, feet firmly planted in the murky and muddy waters of life’s ordinary existence, we hear once more those defining words of the Father, “This is, my Son, This is my Daughter, the Beloved, on whom my favour rests.”