Homily: Baptism of the Lord

Readings of the Day 

This is about a young man at the pinnacle of accomplishment. He’d wrestled his personal demons and won; he’d saved his friends from captivity; he’d put them in a place where they could win together. At the end of a great combat, he faced his greatest enemy and defeated him, rendered him powerless. He stood at the brink of real power, ultimate power in the galaxy. At that moment of triumph, the Emperor celebrated with him. “Destroy him, Luke, and take his place at my side.”

But Luke Skywalker realized he couldn’t go that way. He resisted the last temptation to take the Dark Side of the Force and put away his weapon, saying he couldn’t kill Darth Vader. The reason he gave was: “I am a Jedi like my Father.”

Well, that almost got him killed then and there, but it made the impossible happen. This sacrifice enabled Darth Vader to throw off the Dark Side, become Anakin Skywalker once again, and destroy the Evil Emperor. Luke’s fidelity, his refusal to embrace evil by embracing his tradition, made it possible for Good to prevail.

Jesus and John were related; we don’t know if they knew each other before because they grew up in widely separated parts of the country, and John was probably an orphan in his childhood. John may not have recognized Jesus when he came forward, another face in the crowd, another person to go into the waters of the Jordan. But then something happened that changed everything.

Jesus didn’t need John’s Baptism, it would have been a sign of becoming John’s disciple if that’s all there was, but it’s something more. It’s the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry on his own, out of John’s shadow. It’s about Jesus embracing His role as God’s Son, embracing who He is: the Savior of the World. It’s a sign that means sacrifice, there will be pain and death on the other side of John’s Baptism. Without this pattern, we might have a tougher time figuring out what to do, how to make our commitment to Christ. This sign is the imprint of what’s to come: death and resurrection. And Jesus beginning His adult ministry at his baptism affected people around Him, including John; it affects us today.

This sign is about us, it’s about embracing our destiny in Christ and our life as Christians. We share in Christ’s baptism, his going into the water is our going into the water. In Baptism, Christ becomes the model of our lives, and we leave with a course to follow. Baptism is the gateway to a different life, a life away from power and control, a life of fulfillment in God’s vision for us.

Every time we come to a Sacrament, we touch that moment we met the waters of Baptism. Every time we touch Jesus, we touch our destiny, we touch our basic identity as Children of God. The Eucharist is renewal of our participation in Christ’s baptism, we say yes to Christ every time we come here and receive his Body and Blood. In Christ, we are at our best: we realize our full potential, we are at the greatest peace with ourselves, we are our best self with Christ, we find our true identity in Christ.

Our embracing Christ has an effect, not only on us, but on the world. Because we embrace Christ, the world is different, the world is better, the world is closer to full redemption and a new way of peace.

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