The readings today feature lots
and lots of water:
Isaiah invites us to “Come
to the water,” and speaks of the word of God falling like snow and rain. The
Responsorial verse tells us that we “will draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation.” The Gospel contrasts
the water baptism of John with the water and spirit baptism of Jesus. So, there
is plenty of water imagery today!
Well, we have had our share of
water this week, too, with lots and lots of snow, sleet, rain, and ice, -- especially, that ice! I am sure you noted the first page article in The Globe this week encouraging us to walk like Penguins,
(feet pointed outwards), fall like Penguins, (keep your flippers to your side,) so that, hopefully, we might bounce up again
like Penguins. Let me know if it works!
You remember, I am sure, that
Monday morning was particularly icy. Coming very slowly down a one way side street in Cambridge, I applied my brake gently as I came to a red
light. The next thing I knew, I had skidded in slow motion 180 degrees and was
now pointed back up the street. Fortunately, although the street is lined with
cars on both sides, there were no cars near the intersection and my car escaped
Obviously, I brought this event
into my prayer the next morning. (That is what prayer is for.) First of all, I was most grateful to God for escaping damage. I felt God had been particularly caring for me and protecting me. So, I took time to say, “Thank you, Lord.” But, then, I felt God wanted to say something more. I remembered that throughout Advent we have been hearing John the Baptist shouting
out, “Repent because the Kingdom of God
is at hand.” That word, “Repent” means: turn around, change
the direction of your life so that your life is pointing to God from where you have come.
In my busy journey I have a tendency to want to be in control of my life. And gradually my attention moves away from
God to focus on my more self-centered issues. So, here was God literally turning
me around to get my attention.
For a long time, the prophets,
like Isaiah, kept saying to Israel, “You
have forgotten that you belong to God. You have forgotten that God has chosen
you. You have forgotten the covenant of love that binds you. You
have been choosing the direction you want and not what God wants. And so, you
have moved away from your God and away from your true self. God reminded them,
as we heard today, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways.”
Then, God invited them, “Come.
… Come to the water. … Come to me heedfully, listen that you may have life.”
When John the Baptist came on
the scene, the people did listen. They did come to the water. They came in droves to acknowledge their desire to turn back to God with all their heart. As a sign of their turning to God, they let John immerse them in the waters of the Jordan. Among
these people came Jesus, -- not because he needed to change the direction of his life, -- rather because he knew that his
Father wanted him to be as close as possible with all people on the road to salvation.
Right from the beginning of his
mission, Jesus wanted to be in the same river with all of us making this sometimes painful journey to full life. If, at Christmas, Jesus, Son of God, was placed into our human family, it is at his baptism, that he affirms
the decision of His Father and deliberately chooses to identify with us in all the messiness of human life. He is, indeed, like us in all things except sin. No wonder,
his Father says, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” No wonder the Spirit comes upon Him to guide and strengthen him for the journey ahead.
The Father’s pleasure is not for what Jesus has done, but for what he is willing to do.
For most of us, our baptism is
something which happened to us, -- like being born. We did not choose it. I suggest
that Jesus’ Baptism is more like our Confirmation. Confirmation was a moment
and action we chose, -- as Jesus did. In Confirmation the Spirit descended upon
us to guide and strengthen us, -- as it did for Jesus. With Confirmation we begin
to live the mission God has for us, -- as Jesus did. I feel sure that God was
saying to us on our Confirmation day, (though most of us did not hear Him) what God said to Jesus, “You are my beloved
son. You are my beloved daughter; with you I am well pleased,” -- not because
we had accomplished anything for the Kingdom of God, but, because, like Jesus, we were ready and willing to begin the journey
that keeps looking back to God and keeps looking ahead to the planting and growing of God’s Kingdom.
Today marks the end of Christmas
and the beginning of Ordinary Time. Can we pause for a moment, stand with Jesus,
right here and now, in solidarity with all sinners and seekers, and profess once again our willingness to move with Jesus
more eagerly and steadfastly into his ministry and ours. Perhaps, if we do, we
might hear now what we may not have heard before, “You are my beloved. With
you I am well pleased.” And then we move on in our daily work for God,
-- just as Jesus did.