BAPTISM OF THE LORD 2012
What began in a quiet room in Nazareth and led to a stable in Bethlehem where angels sang and shepherds adored, where Magi followed a star and where you and I and all the world first saw the savior of the world, a little child born of a Virgin. Moment after moment, miracle after miracle. A child is born; a savior is given for, In the fullness of time God sent his son born of a woman…
And then a new phenomenon: a man from the desert preaching repentance for sins. All of Jerusalem is amazed. They flock to him, fascinated by this strange but so attractive a personality that perhaps, just perhaps he might be the Messiah, the one sent from God. BUT HE SAYS NO. and then continues to do what he was sent to do: prepare the way! For Whom? When? How? Jesus comes to be baptized by John and all John has been doing comes to a sudden halt. For what began in Nazareth and believed in by shepherds and Magi now becomes manifest to the world: The Savior of the world is baptized by the precursor to bring to the world what every human heart needs, what every human longing seeks, what all the world needs: God’s life enters ours and now what could only be hoped for becomes real.
The Fathers of the Church love to reflect on this dramatic scene: the voice to the word, the one who proclaims repentance to the one who forgives sins; the one who says I am not fit to untie his sandal to the Lamb of God. What an immense mystery is in this heavenly baptism. The Father makes himself heard from heaven, the Son has appeared on earth and the Holy Spirit reveals himself in the form of a dove. Think of the drama of this moment. Reflect what it must have meant to those present! But consider even more what this means for you! For me! For the world!
St Faustus tells us something central to our grasp of the meaning of this moment for you and me, for the Church and, through the Church, for the world. He says, To those who saw, these things were miracles, to those who understand, sacraments. Yes, sacraments. For the Father sends the Son not simply to demonstrate his power over the world but to show his saving love to one and all. The Father sends the Son to become one like us so that we can become divinized, share in the life of the Spirit which quickens our lives and gives shape to our living out his life here on this earth in our time and our worlds.
Miracles are the acts of God that break through the restrictions of this finite world and show God’s total commitment to humankind. But thanks be to God Jesus Christ comes as more than a miracle. He comes as the only begotten Son to make his life present in ours through the great sacrament which is the Church which in turn is the faithful dispenser of God’s sacramental life through our baptism into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He makes the water of the Jordan holy when he enters into it. He makes our lives holy and sacramental when he enters into our hearts and transforms them.
If the Church is truly a community of communion, it is so because the Spirit of God dwells here to vivify all of us with the fire and power that is God’s way of transforming the world. It is a fire that burns away the debris of sin. It is a fire that enflames our hearts so that we who are baptized in Jesus and nourished by His Body and Blood may be sacraments to the world of God’s love made manifest in His Son at the River Jordan and now manifest to the world through the community of his disciples.
And, my dear friends, you truly have been sacraments of God’s love to one another and especially to those among us who have suffered from Sandy. How grateful I am to God for all of you. And how grateful I am for how you turned a tragedy into a miracle that broke through barriers and brought the healing and powerful love of God and neighbor to one another. Fr Sureau was my constant informer of all of this and I know that with Msgr DeGrocco and Fr John you were receiving the best leadership a parish could desire. I also know about Coffee Café and then Internet Café and the Relief Center and Home Depot which could easily be called Hope depot. Some of you whose own homes were flooded faced up to the challenge and then came here to help others. Another one of you got hold of a generator and provided coffee and hot showers for neighbors. You know all this and so much more. But I want to tell you that this was more than neighbor helping neighbor. This was God’s love in action. The strength you showed was and is a strength that finds its origin in the Lord’s power and his example who, once baptized, prayed to the Father that we, his disciples, might live in Him and he in us so that we might be sacraments of healing and life and love to one another. Msgr DeGrocco got it right when he said that “this was the paschal mystery”. For you imitated the Lord who washed the feet of his disciples before he suffered and told his first apostles, and you and me, As I have done for you, so you must do for one another.
This all began with a Virgin in Nazareth who said YES to God and brought forth a child who is God with us. He is the one whom Isaiah foretold to be God’s servant; God’s chosen one who brings forth justice for the nations, offers a covenant for God’s people and is God’s light to all. Peter, as he saw how the sacrament of baptism transformed Cornelius and other gentiles, was overwhelmed by God’s loving mercy for all humankind and teaches us today that beginning in Galilee after the baptism John preached, how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil for God was with him.
God was here and is with you today and every day. You here today celebrate that miracle of His baptism which for us who understand is the beginning of the sacramental life of the Church. May you continue to live the life of the Spirit in this community of communion. May he continue to be with you in the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist. And may He bless you and guide you as you are sacraments to one another for as God was with our Fathers, so may God be with us.