One With Us
In this excellent homily for The Baptism of the Lord, Year A, Father Hanly shows how Jesus enters the waters as one of us, one with us, to ask God’s forgiveness for all.
Readings for The Baptism of the Lord, Year C
- 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: Matthew 3:13-7
It’s quite a big step from the Epiphany of last Sunday to today. Jesus is all grown up now. Already his reputation has become very strong in many places in and around Galilee where he comes from.
He is an itinerant preacher. He is known for certain miracles that he seems to work effortlessly, and he always has a large group of people coming around him wherever he goes. And yet everybody is still trying to figure out exactly who he is and what he represents.
Now, of course, we all know John, his cousin, who is baptising at the Jordon River regularly and preparing the way of the Lord.
And everybody is wondering when the Lord is going to arrive. And when the Lord comes, what will he be like? Will he be a mighty warrior that will drive the Romans back to where they belong and free the people of Israel?
And here Jesus comes as a simple itinerant preacher, and now he’s getting in a long line of sinners waiting to be baptised by John the Baptist. And, of course, to enter the waters means that you are repenting for your sins and you are turning back to the Lord.
Jesus standing in line very humbly, is hardly recognised. And when he appears before John, John looks up at him, and John knows him immediately because they are cousins, remember, and John knows the stories that his mother told him of his aunt Mary, who conceived the hope of Israel.
So John looks at Jesus and he says, “I need to be baptised by you, and yet you are coming to me?”
And Jesus says to him, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”
And so Jesus enters the waters. And you realise what a wondrous thing it is, for here is the Son of God entering the waters of death, because to be plunged into the waters of baptism is a sign of death, death to the old world and rebirth in the new.
He who walks into the waters realises his need for God’s forgiveness, he realises what harm he has done and is immensely sorry for it, he recognises his need to change, to die to the old and be reborn into a new world.
And here is Jesus, a man who has never sinned, the Son of God who has never left his Father’s love, and here he is being baptised by John the Baptist in a baptism of repentance. And, of course, everybody wonders why.
Jesus has come to make himself one with us, sinners as we are, and he walks through the waters as one of us, because he knows that the love of God reaches down to those who know their great need for Him and for His forgiveness and that these are His people.
Sitting on the sidelines are the Pharisees, the high priests, the important people of Israel. They are not going into the waters. They are not going to recognise that they are anything but the ideal for the people to follow.
But Jesus the humble man walks into the waters of death, acknowledging that he represents all human beings, one with them, and appeals for God’s forgiveness, God’s forgiveness for the whole world.
It’s a marvelous picture and worthy of what follows, for then Jesus comes out of the waters to build a whole new world. He comes out of the waters to give hope to the hopeless. He comes out of the waters saying that God is with you in your sins and in your need and in your poverty and in your weakness.
And so it is that Jesus enters solidly aligned with ordinary human beings. All of us are in need of forgiveness. And this is what Jesus is saying by not saying anything.
And the dignity that his Father gives Jesus, the voice says, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” that dignity does not end with Jesus.
For the greatness of God the Creator, was to create us a little less than the angels. And Jesus walking through the waters of death recognises that he has come to bring us all back to what we truly are, and to reveal to us deep in our own hearts the depths of our dignity.
To walk out of the waters with Jesus is to walk with redeemed humanity. To be the kind of person that we want to be? No, but rather to be the person we already are for we were created by God, and we walk out of the waters with Jesus and into the arms of God Himself!
And so we realise that at the very heart of it all, we are priceless people. We are people of high value and we are worth everything because Jesus has come to tell us that God is saying to each and every one of us, “You are a people whom I love, you are a people whom I’ve created, and you are a people with whom I am well pleased.”