"And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: and lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." Matt. 3:16, 17.
In these words the Bible records the opening of the most momentous ministry in human history. Christ Jesus had gone to the Jordan River to be baptized by John the Baptist—a ritual designed to represent inner spiritual renewal. John had ringingly denounced those who used the ritual only for outward show, without the inner repentance and regeneration needed to prepare one to receive the Messiah. But as Jesus approached him, John was astonished to recognize one who needed no baptism—the Messiah himself. Jesus, however, consented to this outward token of purification and, while doing so, received the visible sign of his divine sonship which was to mark the beginning of his ministry.
Like a theme running through a symphony, this message of divine sonship sounded again and again in Jesus' healings and teachings. This was and is each one's true source of renewal and reformation. Jesus brought to mankind a whole new view of our relationship to God. Not only was he the Son of God, but every individual was and is in truth the child of this same loving Father. As the Apostle John later expressed it, "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God .... Beloved, now are we the sons of God." I John 3:1, 2.
So could we too have a dove descending on us with a message of spiritual identification and reassurance? Just imagine hearing the words "This is my beloved child, in whom I am well pleased"! Would it be too much to accept? Yet this is the very message Christ Jesus brought to us all. The same clear, unconditional blessing rests on every single one of God's beloved children—right now. We are not the flawed mortals we sometimes appear to be, doubting or failing, but are actually fully known by our heavenly Father in our original spiritual perfection.
When this dove-blessing comes winging to thought, we mustn't reject it or push it away with thoughts such as "Not now—later!" or "I'm not worthy!" or "You've got the wrong person!" We need to receive it—gracefully and gratefully—and to accept its message and its benediction. It needs to nestle in our hearts and make its home with us. It is the urgent, imperative assurance of how deeply, totally, unconditionally, tenderly we are loved and approved by our Father-Mother God, who is divine Love itself.
Divine Love is always fully conscious of its own idea. What is brought forth as the creation of divine Love naturally expresses the qualities of its creator. Since joy is a divine attribute, man as God's idea is not only joyful but the object of joy and delight and approval. And who doesn't do his or her best in an atmosphere of approval! Think how children flourish when they have a generous measure of it, but wither under constant criticism.
Are we willing to accept the approval of our heavenly Father? Supposing we feel we don't deserve it? How can a blessing be so unconditional? These questions can help lift us from a mortal view of ourselves to a more spiritual altitude. Yes, God's love is unconditional, because all that God can express is total, all-encompassing love for His own idea.
Sometimes acceptance of this blessing right in the middle of a severe trial can seem out of the question. For anyone to suggest it may even sound heartless at first. A pithy verse in Proverbs (25:20) describes what this feels like, and a Bible commentary explains its significance in this way: "To sing songs for one who is of a heavy heart is almost as cruel as to pour vinegar on a wound." J. R. Dummelow, The One-Volume Bible Commentary (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1936), p. 388 . It would indeed be unfeeling if such a suggestion were just positive thinking or shallow optimism. But if the demand to accept God's blessing is a voice from the very heart of divine Love, it is based on reality itself and so is impelled by a power which heals. It may be the very message we need to awaken us from sorrow or despair so that we can be comforted and know the peace and security that are natural to us as the sons and daughters of God.
Just before his crucifixion, Christ Jesus took the greatest care to prepare his disciples to see beyond the trials of that moment to the eternal facts of spiritual reality. He assured them, "I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. ... the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you." John 14:18, 26.
Christian Science reveals these facts of spiritual reality so that they shine as warm and illuminating rays of light in consciousness, comforting and healing. They show us our immortal status, our spiritual identity, and that of our fellowman. In the presence of this glow of reality, the grim façade of mortality ceases to be the solid fact it seems. We feel nourished and fed; we experience healing. Writing in the light of countless such experiences, the Discoverer of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, referred to Jesus' promise: "In the words of St. John: 'He shall give you another Comforter,that he may abide with you forever.' This Comforter I understand to be Divine Science." Science and Health, p. 55.
If the false sense of ourselves seems stubbornly tenacious, if guilt, self-condemnation, failure to live up to our high ideal, seem at times so much more real, more "us," than the child of God—even this doesn't have the power to make it so. These are not our thoughts at all! They have no origin in God and therefore no influence over our lives. We have authority for renouncing them, firmly and finally. But we need to be sure we are arguing on the right side and not rehearsing (or even glorifying) our shortcomings to ourselves and others. If we honestly desire to become what we are—the sons and daughters of God—we have to practice accepting our spiritual birthright. And this acceptance is something that can be practiced! Right when denigrating or fearful suggestions come to thought, we can close the door on them and, at the same time, we can stretch out our hands, mentally and spiritually, to receive our dove, to welcome our Father's benediction and rejoice in His love. We can voice His angel messages of hope and reassurance to ourselves and others, replacing condemnation with spiritual blessing.
In Mrs. Eddy's words, "Self-renunciation of all that constitutes a so-called material man, and the acknowledgment and achievement of his spiritual identity as the child of God, is Science that opens the very flood-gates of heaven; whence good flows into every avenue of being, cleansing mortals of all uncleanness, destroying all suffering, and demonstrating the true image and likeness." Miscellaneous Writings, p. 185.
And in accepting the dove ourselves, we accept it as the spiritual birthright of others also. Whether it is our nearest neighbor or a nation in travail crying out for a sign of God's love, that angel touch in our own lives becomes a law to our view of others. Our ministry has to begin with knowing ourselves as children of God; but it extends to all mankind through the law of loving our neighbor as ourselves. Love is never egocentric. By its very nature it is radiant, blessing all within the compass of thought. The dove-message knows nothing about nationality, race, creed, color, age, gender—all the man-made categories. It is not inhibited by war zones or politics, language or culture. It is the universal message of peace, speaking to the human heart in the way that each one can understand.
In our longing to help bring healing to a world in need, we must be still and hear what divine Love is declaring about its own beloved creation. And we must trust the self-revelation of that love to every one of its ideas. To each, a dove.
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