Have you ever read an “I Spy” book? Perhaps, “I Spy Treasure Hunt”, “I Spy Animals”, “I Spy Christmas”, or for those who like to take things to the next level, “I Spy Extreme Challenger”? I must admit that I sat and read a number of these titles with our children when they were younger, for their benefit AND mine. It was a simple activity, very satisfying. An object somewhat hidden and obscure, often amidst colorful clutter and child-friendly chachki, just needed to be found. It was always on the page – guaranteed to be there – which gave the search hope and purpose. After all, who would waste their time looking for something that might not be there?
I am a film producer, not an author, but if I were ever to write a memoir about my spiritual journey, I just might give it the title, “I Spy Jesus Christ: The Eric Groth Edition”. When I reflect on the Lord’s movement and activity in my life over my 43 years, “I spy” Him in countless moments. I spy Him when we prayed the family Rosary and my dad plopped the big family Bible in my lap so that I could look at the cool pictures that separated the Old from the New Testament (smart dad). I especially liked super Samson destroying the temple, Lot’s wife turning into a pillar of salt, and this amazing Jesus calming the raging storm at sea. I spy Him when the usher gently handed a five-year old boy unconsecrated bread at the offertory one Sunday and instructed, “Take good care of that. It’s really important.” I spy Him when a high school football injury ended my career and some dear friends laid hands on my wounded knee and prayed for healing. The next morning the orthopedic surgeon was amazed that the damage was not as devastating as the MRI showed the night of the injury. I spy Him when my wife and I were relocating from Haines City, Florida, to Steubenville, Ohio, and were $200 short of what we needed to rent a moving truck. One week before the move, a woman showed up at our door with a card, stuffed with two one-hundred dollar bills (we didn’t tell anyone about our need). I spy Him in the delivery room with our first-born son after we were told four years earlier that we would probably never have biological children. I spy Him in that painful conversation, too. We now have eight.
If I had an unlimited amount of words for this reflection, I could “I Spy” Jesus on every page of the book of my life. Today we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord; a moment in our salvation history when our heavenly Father was doing a little “I Spy” of His own. In Luke’s gospel, we read that the people were filled with hope. For centuries, the Jewish people were waiting for… looking for… the promised Messiah. The Torah was their “I Spy” and John’s person and preaching was about to identify the subject of their search. “One mightier than I is coming,” he proclaimed. And Jesus arrived. Not to be exalted on high (yet), but to be baptized just like everyone else. The purpose of the Father’s heavenly “I Spy” is made clear in the second reading: “But when the kindness and generous love of God our savior appeared, not because of any righteous deeds we had done but because of his mercy, he saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he richly poured out on us through Jesus Christ our savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:4-7). What joy and comfort I find in knowing that, while it is critical for me to actively search my past and present for God, He, too, searched, is searching, and will continue to search for me. And as He proclaimed Christ his own, if I listen to that gentle voice, I just might hear the Father say: “Eric…you are my beloved son; with you I am well pleased.” So complete this sentence: I spy Jesus Christ.