This is my homily for January 11, 2009 – The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. The readings can be found at http://www.usccb.org/nab/readings/011109.shtml – Thanks for reading!
Fr. Jim Chern
On the front page of a newspaper was a picture of a young man sitting on some school steps. He was bald, and all around him were his classmates, about 25 of them, some wearing school jackets, others in T-Shirts and regular jackets, their heads bowed towards the camera – and they too were bald. The Headline read: TRUE BLUE PALS and the caption said: Mark Busse, 16, of Reardon, Washington, poses with classmates from his high school in this eastern Washington state town.
His friends shaved their heads to show support for Busse after his hair fell out following chemotherapy for inoperable lung cancer. His buddies said that they didn’t want him to stand out in the 180 student high school. What an awesome act of kindness and friendship that was. Mark, despite his illness, despite his troubles, is a very lucky young man – he has the best kind of friends anyone can have – even though they are not sick, even though they have no reason in the world to shave their heads and experience some of what young Mark experiences – do so anyway. They identify with him. They walk in his shoes. They show him that he is not alone. They perform an act, they give him a sign.
In today’s celebration of The Baptism of the Lord, we see a similar act by Jesus. At the Jordan River, John the Baptist is preaching the need for repentance and washing clean the sins of those who come to him in this “ritual cleaning”.
Jesus did not need to be baptized – He didn’t have the sickness we have, he wasn’t a sinner, he had no cause for repentance. But Jesus does this to show what he has taken upon himself: our burdens, our sickness, our sins, in the hope that by his showing his complete identification with us we will turn away from that life, from our sins and turn towards Him, the Son of God who saves us from Sin and offers us eternal life. Jesus by undergoing this Baptism once again says God loves you and I so much that he wants to identify with us. He wants to make it easy for us to relate with Him. This is how Jesus starts his ministry to identify with us who are lost and lonely searching for a way back to God.
When we were baptized, it was the beginning of our acceptance of Jesus’ healing love, our desire to be as he was. We renew ourselves in that call, in that relationship with Jesus. We are in the river with Christ. And thank God for that, for the only hope we have to transform our lives from darkness to light, to recreate our world from an existence of sinful selfishness to a hope-filled community is in Him.