Homily - January 10, 2016

posted Jan 27, 2016, 10:08 AM by Music Director

Our celebration today begs the question:  why was Jesus baptized?
We know that John was baptizing to prepare the Jewish nation to receive their long-awaited Messiah, an action meant to symbolize an inner cleansing from sin so they would be worthy to receive the promised Messiah who would deliver them from evil, restore the nation to its former greatness, renew their covenant with God and usher in a new age of freedom and faithfulness.
But Jesus WAS the Messiah!  So why did He need to be baptized?
We also see in John’s baptism the foreshadowing of our own, in which we are formally united to Christ and His followers, the people we call the Church, and celebrate our liberation from the effects of sin and death.  So ok, we get why WE need baptism; but why Jesus?
If He’s God as well as human, and if His mother was preserved from Original Sin as we celebrated a few weeks ago on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, surely Jesus was also conceived without any trace of human imperfection.  In His very nature He was already united to God, and with God’s human creation.
So what gives?  I think the answer lies in Peter’s observation recorded in our reading from the Acts of the Apostles:  “I see how true it is that God shows no partiality.”
In other words, Jesus doesn’t ask of us anything He wouldn’t do Himself.  So if we begin to fulfill our calling to be His followers by being baptized, so He begins His own mission in the very same way.  Ever the perfect leader, Jesus leads not just by command, but by example.
Well, if God shows no partiality even to the point of being baptized Himself, accepting a FULL humanity including even death, what does that say about us who are baptized into Him, made a part of Him, which is why the Church is called “the Body of Christ?”
If He who is the “head” of the body shows no partiality, what about us, His “hands,” His “voice,” the people who reflect His presence in the world in which we live?  Can we say we are His Body, can we truly reflect His presence, is our baptism real if we continue to be biased?
There are some who want to build walls along our nation’s borders and keep out people who are different, in order to do what?  To protect what?  Will isolation make our country, in their words, “great again?”  I thought we were already great!  Name a country that’s greater!  Russia? China? North Korea? Iran? Saudi Arabia?
This country’s greatness lies in the ideals upon which is was founded, and the people who continue to struggle however imperfectly to live up to them, which when you really think about it sound an awful lot like the ideals we find in the Word of God!
This country is great because it is made up of people from every other nation, and tribe, and race and creed who all seek what every human being was created to share:  liberty, justice, equality; because we are made in the image and likeness of one who is the Ultimate Liberator; who is Justice itself; who as Father, Son and Spirit is the perfect Unity.
Some will try to hurt us, to destroy us.  Why not?  They did it to Jesus, what makes us think we should be immune?
But they can’t, as long as we don’t allow it; as long as we remain faithful to those ideals and shine them on the rest of the world that is desperate to know them.  Isn’t that what the Statue of Liberty was meant to remind us of?
In the end the forces of evil will NEVER win.  They will ALWAYS be defeated.  History has proved it over and over.  Even more so has Jesus Christ!
Pope Francis, a REAL leader because like Jesus he leads by example, is calling on us to proclaim mercy, MERCY!  What mercy is there in telling a family, “Sorry, you can’t be reunited?”  “Sorry, you can’t come here to escape poverty, injustice, terror and war.”
Suppose it was YOUR family?  At one time, it WAS!
Certainly one nation cannot take in everyone, but we cannot descend into paranoiac isolation, either.  Working together with other nations of good will we can, and with God’s help will, find solutions to make peace on earth and justice for all more of a reality throughout the world.
God shows no partiality.  Neither must we, if we are to be merciful, as God is merciful; if we are to be true to our baptism into the One who Himself was baptized to lead us to truth, to lead us to justice, to lead us to life.
Or do we prefer the kingdom of fear, the kingdom of darkness and death, to the kingdom of God?