• Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7 • Acts 10:34-38 • Matthew 3:13-17 • Baptism of The Lord A’14 •
Scripture Readings: Feast of the Baptism of the Lord
Print PDF: Weekly Homily 01.12.2014
For most of us, the experience of baptism is that of watching an infant being immersed in water. At that moment, we have no idea how that child, all scrubbed and shining, crying or not crying, will or will not enter the mystery of Christ. The baptism of an adult by immersion is a far richer experience, but life is complicated. Even as that adult stands among us, toweled dry and dressed in a white garment, we have no idea of how s/he will enter the mystery of Christ.
“After Jesus was baptized, he came up from the water.” It is impossible for us to know what that experience was for Jesus. We can only conjecture. Clearly the evangelists saw it as a peak experience. They used poetic language to describe it. “Behold, the heavens 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: this is my beloved son with whom I am well pleased.”
I want to probe with you just what that peak experience may have been. As we do so please keep this in mind. Jesus was a human being! He inherited the same genetic package and DNA we inherited from our ancestors. Primal instincts are embedded in our DNA. Those primal instincts are charged with intense emotional energy but lack moral value. Moral value arises only when we give expression to that energy. For example “fear” is a primal instinct. In itself “fear” has no moral value. Moral value arises when “fear” generates spirit-diminishing self-doubt, narcissism, anger or violence. So it is with all of our primal instincts.
Apparently that baptism experience made him aware he was in the care of that Gracious Mystery we name God. That awareness enabled him to sublimate the enormous energy of those primal instincts into unconditional love. That freed him to live his life exuberantly as a gift to be shared. There is not even a slight hint of narcissism in him. He became more and more fully human.
It is likely that after his baptism he remained as part of John’s community. After John was murdered Jesus left the desert and the language of the desert. He does not return to his home in Nazareth but begins moving among the villages of Galilee. His words turned into poetry and parable. He invited people to look at life in a new way! They were enchanted. Everything spoke to them of the nearness of God. Ordinary things like the seeds they sowed and the bread they baked, the birds in the sky, their family weddings and their meals were no longer ordinary.
A new reality began to emerge in and through him. He freely touched people, healing them and soothing their pain. He embraced and blest all, even the most forgotten and despised: lepers, tax collectors, prostitutes, the demon-possessed and Samaritans. He loved people without condition. In doing so he enabled them to trust in that Gracious Mystery he knew as “Father.” He enabled them to become more fully human.
Your baptism as infant or adult was the beginning of a similar life-long process for you. The Spirit of God has and even now is empowering you to sublimate the energy of your primal instincts and to direct that energy into unconditional love.
As you allow the Spirit to guide you, as unconditional love grows deeper in your heart, it is transforming your thinking, your attitudes, behavior and your relationships. You have and are in fact becoming more like Christ. Every time you touch another with kindness, mercy; every polite gesture or word; even your smile that reveals your goodness; all of these are ways in which you are sublimating the enormous energy of your primal instincts into unconditional love.
Today I hope you simply recognize your deepest truth. It is this. Christ lives in you! Never forget that! You, and all of us are the Living Body of Christ! Baptized as infant or as adult, this feast prompts us to be consciously aware of how Christ lives in us, and we in Christ! As you become increasingly mindful of this deepest truth of your life, you will continue embracing your life exuberantly as a gift to be shared.