Homily The Baptism of the Lord Cycle C January 13, 2019

As opposed to Good Friday, a curious name considering the events and circumstances, a day when God wept watching his beloved Son dying so painfully and brutally, today’s reaction is the polar opposite; “You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.” So many times we hear so many folks stressing God’s anger, righteous anger where anger is present, for God is always in the right. We’re rightfully concerned about judgment, a part of our faith never to be taken lightly, asking at times, “How can a merciful, loving God send anyone to Hades? Or Hell?” The answer, of course, is that people can choose it. God makes the righteous judgment according to our free will. But, as the Church teaches with great wisdom, we’ve never declared any soul to be in hell (some of us may have made that decision about someone, but not the Church), which is different from saying that no souls are in hell. The truth is we don’t know. What we do know we declare; the joyful declaration that makes God pleased with a big smile, the Communion of Saints. The Saints in light, as St. Paul names them. The Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan by John is a day that draws our full attention to God who is pleased. What is it with Jesus’ Baptism by the Baptist that moves God to speak from heaven, speaking words that make clear that the Creator of the stars is filled with infinite joy? What does Jesus do here that causes the 1st Person of the Trinity to notice with pleasure what the 2nd Person of the Trinity is doing? The first answer to these inquiring questions is Jesus proclaiming himself, on the banks of the Jordan, to be a humble servant. Most parents know that title well, being humble servants to their children, while trying to remain in charge until the teenage years roll around. When we consider who Jesus is, and then consider further that he allowed John the Baptist to baptize him, it’s pretty startling that it all went down the way it did. John says elsewhere, “You should be baptizing me.” That’s correct, John. John understood who was before him. He never forgot that joyful leap in his mother’s womb when the two pregnant mothers came together. And here we are, 30 years later, and instead of John’s legs leaping for joy, now his voice is leaping for joy; “I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.” How good life is for us when we make the same daily choice to allow our voices to leap for joy in Christ. The servitude of Jesus, being a servant for his Father first, a servant who is obedient to all that God seeks from him, is at the heart of Jesus’ baptism. In our Catholic faith, we teach this very principle in the context of Christian marriage. One spouse is not meant to be the slave of the other spouse. Christian marriage is mutual servitude. Sorry if I ruined the day for some of you men, and a few of you women. God shows no partiality, except when the Patriots win today. Christ is humble servant in his Baptism. A Christian who is a humble servant accomplishes more good for God than an arrogant person who thinks the world should wait on them. A second truth that emerges from Jesus’ Baptism is one of power. How many of us who were baptized as infants would love to be at the center of an earth-shattering experience of God’s power overpowering us? That thought scares many people. What would it result in? How would such divine power change us? Would I be changed on the level of a St. Paul, who went from persecutor to preacher? Would you be a different person? No. We would be the same person, but in different ways. Ways that served the will of God, wiping out all selfish desires, and using the power of love God has naturally planted in our hearts. That earth-shattering moment is going to happen to us in the resurrection of our bodies. But how about before we die from this world? The Baptism of Jesus results in the Spirit descending upon the Lord in the form of a dove. The Spirit is power. Power for all that is good in God’s eyes. We know that Christ is fully human and fully divine, but the Baptism and what follows, by all appearances, thrusts upon Jesus even more Godly power. It’s from this point in his life that we begin to read about the mega-healings, raising people from the dead (“Hold on Lazarus, I’m coming!”), calling out demons, alongside the greatest power of God found at the heart of Baptism, the forgiveness of sins. We are in need of continually reminding ourselves that our Baptism in our younger years was a moment of great power. And, for many of us, that Christian power has been elevated in the reception of Confirmation… The fire and the dove descending upon us through the office of Bishop. May we gently remind ourselves, especially in trying moments, that the power received at Baptism has not been done away with. Such power received does not grow old. It has not died or been traded to another team. May we, like Christ, use the power that flows from our Baptism and Confirmation well, being humble servants. So that we too may grab the Father’s attention with his words, “You are my beloved son and daughter; with you I am well pleased.”