The Baptism of the Lord
In his homily for The Baptism of the Lord, Year B, Father Hanly explains the point of Jesus’ baptism.
Readings for The Baptism of the Lord, Year B
- First Reading: Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7
- Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 29:1-2, 3-4, 3, 9-10
- Second Reading: Acts 10:34-38
- Gospel: Mark 1:7-11
I am sure you all know this, that we’re in the gospel according to St. Mark.
St. Mark’s gospel is very short. If you sit down to read it out loud, you’ll finish it in thirty-five to forty minutes. It’s very short. It’s called the no frills gospel. Very few descriptions.
And what he does, today, he says, “I am going to tell you about Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God. And you can believe it, take it or leave it, but this is the way it happened.” It has nothing to do about children, it has nothing to do about angels, it has nothing to do about all of these things.
For him, it is Jesus leaving Nazareth, coming to the Jordan, meeting John, and John baptises him.
And then, as Jesus comes out of the water, he hears a voice from heaven, saying,
“You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
It seems so abrupt. And yet everything in this very short gospel is. In all, it took Luke three chapters, and Matthew two or three chapters, to bring us to the point.
And, of course, the point is this: the point is that the baptism of Jesus is our baptism. And our baptism is a baptism into Jesus. And, because we are baptized into Jesus, we are one with Jesus.
He has walked into the water to show that he is one with the baptism of John.
The baptism of John is one of repentance, people coming back, going into the Jordan and washing themselves clean of all of their sins and readying themselves for the gift of the Holy Spirit.
And Jesus, who did not sin but had a great need for uniting him one with all of humanity — all of humanity, not just all the good things in the world, but the burden of all the sin and wars and desolation and awful things that have happened down through the centuries — he carries that with him. He will be one with human beings, sharing in their greatness, but also in their grief.
And so it is he does that, so that walking out of the water, he who has accepted our humanity, shares with us his divinity. He is the Son, and we are the sons and daughters of the Father. He is the one that his Father looks down upon and He says, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
And He says that to each and every one of us, for there is no separating Jesus from his disciples, there is no separating us from our sonship and daughtership of God Himself, for he has given us by becoming a human being and taking in the unity that we have with him and he’s brought us into the very life of God.
This is a very difficult concept to understand: that there is no separation between the Father’s love of Jesus, and of Jesus’s love of the Father, and our love of Jesus and our love of the Father, and the Spirit, which is the living dynamic force of that love. It falls to us as our inheritance.
For, as we mentioned in the (inaudible), he has come to make us sons of God and daughters of God, he has come to make us his brothers and sisters, and he has come to give us a share in what he has come to do, which is to heal and to save, to care and to love.
And this is the beginning and the end and the meaning of his life. And St. Mark does it so nicely and so well with just a few brief strokes.
While reading about what I was going to say about the Baptism of the Lord, I came across somebody else who, in one small example, seemed to say everything that I myself would like to have said, but I was not exactly intelligent enough to say. I would like to read you what he wrote.
This was the introduction to the Baptism of the Lord in one of the Sunday missals. The man who wrote it, his name was Roger Keeler, and the man who wrote it was the friend of this couple he will now describe to you.
“She wore a lavender cashmere sweater. A single strand of pearls matching her earrings rested elegantly in its folds. Her hair was carefully coiffed, make-up freshly applied, perfume sweet and subtle. She smiled at her husband tenderly holding her hand. He smiled back at her, eyes questioning, seeking a flicker of recognition.
“‘She doesn’t make connections much any more,’ he whispered. ‘It’s a terrible disease, Alzheimer’s.’ He wiped away another tear that traced its way down his cheek.
“He dresses her, does her hair and applies her make-up. He reads the papers to her and shares stories of their grandchildren’s latest accomplishments and endless discoveries. He feeds her the breakfast that is delivered to her room at eight, and ensures she eats the lunch that arrives at noon.
“‘You are my child, the beloved; with you I am well pleased.’ God the Father spoke these words to the Son. The same words are spoken to us by the Father on the day of our baptism: each of us held in divine tenderness, clothed in dignity, anointed with oil for service, witness and belonging.
“His care for her is more than simple duty. Grounded in vows long ago uttered in Christian faith, he sees beyond her Alzheimer’s to the precious child of God she is, fully deserving of respect, affection, care, attention, and the dignity that God intends for all his children.”*
Today, we wonder, as we think of our own baptism and the dignity that we have (inaudible), we wonder if it would be possible to see each other as God sees us, to care for each other as God cares for us, to sacrifice for each other as God sacrifices for us.
(Apologies, we were unable to transcribe the very end of the homily. If you can make it out, please let us know.)
*Roger Keeler, Edmonton, AB
Living with Christ