Homily January 12, 2014 The Baptism of the Lord
Today, we celebrate the feast of Jesus’ baptism by John. This feast in conjunction with the Epiphany are seen as the manifestation or presentation of Christ to the world. John had been preaching a baptism of repentance and was drawing people from all of Judea and Galilee to hear him. Jesus being ready to set out and begin his life’s work was drawn to hear John and, being the humble person he was, sought to be baptized with the others. With Jesus it wasn’t a question of his sinfulness that drew him but actually his humanity and what entailed from humanity’s failure and sinfulness. The Spirit and the voice from heaven pointed out the specialness and the Sonship of Jesus. It was a life changing and special moment for Jesus sealing his mission and making him known at the same time. It was from here Jesus was led to his prayer and fasting in the desert and became fully aware of what was to come and what he had to do. Like Israel of old that passed through the Red Sea in a symbolic cleansing so Jesus submitted to a similar symbolism with John the last of the prophets. Today, that symbolism remains in the sacrament of Baptism which all Christian churches carry on for all new members. It is for them the beginning of a new life and a whole new way.
It was so for Jesus who until that time had been a carpenter in Nazareth. He was a man known to his friends, but not yet active in what he would be. All the time from his birth to his baptism was a time of preparing and studying and praying. As any of us, he grew and learned and became more aware and knowledgeable as he grew. Always he was drawn in some way to Jerusalem and to the God of his Fathers. The baptism was for all to see and for him a moment to take pause and pray and fast to prepare for what was to come. He knew his journey was to be hard, and yet he carried on prayed and fasted waiting to begin and to speak as the beloved Son that he was. However, as enamored as the people were with John, the question remains as to whether they were really ready to hear the word of God. Certainly, Jesus as outspoken and crowd drawing as he was, still was put to death because he did speak out against the establishment and their mindless rules. Even today his word often falls on deaf ears or on those ill-disposed to hear and act. God’s word can be deflected by so many things that we can even delude ourselves putting things before his Word thinking they will be our saving grace. Remember, Jesus was always about people and their relationship to God. He was always concerned to remove what stood in their way to the Father. He was constant in his criticism of what ever rules were in the way always reminding that love of God and love of your neighbor as you love yourself was the most important thing. While today we live in times when rules and laws seem necessary because God is so far removed from our society and they do protect people somewhat, As Christians we can not forget that salvation is not in the law but in love. To go along to get along is not really a good Christian principle as sometimes it is a simple excuse to exploit weakness of one kind or another.
So today, let us see Jesus’ baptism as his new beginning for us and a moment to renew our own commitment to his word and reconnect in a new and fruitful way with all those who are in our lives.