Saturday, January 9, 2016

Homily - Baptism of the Lord (Year C) (2015)

A couple of weeks ago, just after Christmas, a parishioner mentioned that I should read the periscope in the missallette for the Feast of the Holy Family. She said that since we both have teenage sons, I would appreciate the reflection. And, I am glad that did. In recalling the story of Jesus being “lost” and then found in the Temple, the reflection reminds us that Jesus matured from a boy, to a tween, to a teen, and then to a man; and that Jesus gradually became aware of his Father’s call. The reflection goes on to state that: “this is what every parent raises their child to do: to listen for God’s call in their lives…and that we are called to be holy – not [necessarily] perfect.” A wonderful set of reminders! Knowing that I was preaching in a couple of weeks, I then flipped a few pages and read the periscope for this Sunday: The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. I was reminded that Luke’s account of Jesus’ Baptism is unique from the other Gospel accounts in that there is this delay between the time when he emerges from the water and when the Holy Spirit comes upon him and the voice of the Father says: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Luke regularly presents Jesus at prayer at important points in his ministry: here at his baptism; at the choice of the Twelve (Lk 6:12); before Peter’s confession (Lk 9:18); at the transfiguration (Lk 9:28); when he teaches his disciples to pray (Lk 11:1); at the Last Supper (Lk 22:32); on the Mount of Olives (Lk 22:41); on the cross (Lk 23:46). ( So, it is no surprise that the evangelist would have this pause before of one of the mini-epiphanies or revelations of God that we celebrate during the Christmas season: the birth of Jesus, the visit by the magi, Jesus’ baptism (recalled today), and the miracle at the wedding at Cana. So this prayer-pause (if you will) not only reinforces the importance of prayer in our lives – just as it was for Jesus – but it also reinforces that God’s actions in our lives, and our response, is not random or mere coincidence, luck or fate. God is always acting in our lives – drawing us closer to him, so that we may know his love and mercy, and ultimately his joy and peace. Even if we don’t know it (or want it) God is present – that is the love of God, our Father. And in certain, powerful ways, such as our own Baptism, God’s love and mercy floods us – but more often it is in the everyday interactions, tasks, struggles, even pain and frustrations in which we encounter God and his unconditional and overwhelming love and mercy for us. And like any relationship, it can’t be just one-sided, right? God’s love and mercy demands a response – this is what Fr. John challenged us to consider last week. If we are honest and sincere in our desire to find peace and joy in our lives – even if at this very moment we don’t know where that could possibly be found – then let me offer this challenge: Consider the words spoken by the voice from heaven in today’s Gospel: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Consider what these words mean to you. Do your actions and words invoke such a response from God? From others? Maybe, if this is hard to contemplate for a relationship with a God who may seem distant or uncaring or even the opposite of loving, then consider your relationship with a family member, a friend, or loved one. Do your actions and words towards them invoke a response that says: you are loved by me like a parent for a child with such a tender, caring love, and even more you bring me great pleasure, joy, peace from being in relationship with you. If not, then why? Truthfully, to be in relationship with another should invoke such a response and cause such a response in return. And we know from our human experiences the great joy and peace that we experience when we are in such a relationship, right? This is just the tip of the iceberg for the joy and peace we will find in relationship with God. So, now consider this again in relation to God. It is God who made us – out of pure love, to be loved and to love. It is God, as we heard in the second reading, who, not because of anything we did to deserve it, but because of his mercy, kindness and generous love, 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. And it is God, who gives us his help – his grace – as the Second Reading continues, by training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age, as we await the blessed hope, the appearance of the glory of our great God and savior Jesus Christ. God gives us the tools, the example, and the help to be in relationship with him, in which we will find the joy and peace our hearts and minds long for. So here is the challenge for you: each night this week, as you fall asleep, ask yourself: did my words and actions today towards God and others invoke a heavenly voice saying: “You are my beloved son or daughter, parent or child, sibling, friend, co-worker, stranger or even enemy; with you I am well pleased.” Remember that periscope from a couple of weeks ago: we are called to be holy – not perfect. So, we may not always be perfect in our relationships, but we are called to strive to love as we are loved by God, to forgive as God forgives us, to show mercy as God is merciful toward us, and to promote joy and peace as God gives us joy and peace. My friends, we are given the tools, the example, and the help to experience the joy and peace that awaits us as beloved children of God, with whom our God is well pleased. This week, allow time to prayerfully reflect on and grow in this relationship. May God bless you.