January 12, 2010
(The Baptism of the Lord)
Thus says the LORD: Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, upon whom I have put my spirit; he shall bring forth justice to the nations, not crying out, not shouting, not making his voice heard in the street. A bruised reed he shall not break, and a smoldering wick he shall not quench, until he establishes justice on the earth; the coastlands will wait for his teaching. Is_42:1-4,6-7
Peter proceeded to speak to those gathered in the house of Cornelius, saying: “In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him. Acts_10:34-38
After Jesus was baptized, he came up from the water and behold, the heavens were opened for him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Mt_3:13-17
A thundering voice out of the silence, a brilliant light out of the darkness, a gentle dove, a glowing flame, a pure white garment, a permanent mark and the water of life. ‘THESE are my beloved children, with whom I am well pleased.”
There was something earthquakingly significant about what happened in that dark, muddy Jordan River, 2000-years ago. Could you just HEAR the silence, as they all held their breath? Could you SEE their astonishment, as the heavens opened, the light beamed, the dove descended and the voice thundered! Could you FEEL the hope, the freedom, and the justice that was promised by Isaiah, some 700-years earlier, just knocking at your door.
If I could go back in time, seeing THIS Baptism event would be pretty close to the top of my list. And yet, where was that hope, that freedom, and that justice, when the object of all their dreams would be chastised by the very leaders who were supposed to welcome Him? Where was that justice, when He would be so unjustly crucified by their same persecutors? And where was that freedom in a world so violently oppressed by tyrannical dictators and misguided voices?
Are we not asking those same questions, brothers and sisters, when we fall into the shadows, and the cracks, and the amnesia of darkness, forgetting the glory, and the light; the hope and the promise of the Resurrection?
You see, THAT’s exactly why we come back here (to Mass), week after week: to the light of His love, to our welcoming community, and to His Blessing of every one of us, in voice, and in nourishment, and in reminder every Sunday.
The significance of this incredible Celebration can not be understated! And it all begins with Baptism.
As we heard in our Gospel, John the Baptist did not yet, fully understand the “Big Plan.” And yet, he would obediently follow whatever he was called to do by his Lord. And neither did Peter understand, even after 3-years of discipleship with Jesus, and first-hand experience of the Resurrection. Aside from all the rules and taboos about ritual purity and disassociation with the Gentiles, Peter obediently reversed roles from leader to servant, raising Baptism above his leadership position, above all of his prejudices, and even above the objection of his colleagues.
By Baptizing Cornelius, the Gentile, Peter, like John, opened up a whole new world of Salvation through his obedient faith in Jesus. And God wants all of us to have that same earthquaking experience: light out of the darkness, hope in a seemingly hopeless world, and justice that begins with our love for everyone!
As I was prayerfully contemplating today’s Scriptures, and battling with how to condense this enormous and beautiful subject of our Lord’s and our Baptisms, into this tiny chunk of what we call a homily, I glanced out our window at home to see several hundred geese grazing in ours, and our neighbor’s back yards.
And there, in the middle of them all, was this one, solitary, perfectly white, short-necked goose! And contrary to my first suspicion, it was not an albino goose, and it was not some type of goose-duck hybrid. Good-old Google informed me that what I was looking at was actually a migrating, Canadian, Ross goose. Uncharacteristically separate from its own kind. Strikingly obvious by its brilliance, in comparison to it’s neighbors.
That goose was absolutely mesmerizing!
It WAS Jesus standing in the river with John, surrounded by our beautiful darkness.
It was Peter sitting at a non-kosher dinner with Cornelius and his family, teaching them about Jesus.
And it IS – each one of us – Baptized Catholics, solitary in our workplaces, and on the streets, and in the marketplace; shining with the Light of Christ on our countenance; and mesmerizing the world with our hope for eternal life, and our freedom from fear of death, and God’s justice, expressed in our Love for everyone!
THIS is the Glory of Baptism.
And for it, we too cry out in joy,
“Blessed be God forever!”
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