Here is my homily for this weekend. May God bless all of you!
Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, Cycle A, 2014
Isaiah 42: 1-4, 6-7; Acts 10:34-38; Matthew 3: 13-17
January 11/12, 2014
What would God say if the heavens were opened and his voice could be heard talking about you? “This is my beloved son/daughter, in whom I am well-pleased!”? Or are those words reserved for Jesus His Son? Could they be said of you also?
Can you in any way identify with Jesus in today’s Gospel, who is revealed to us as the second Person of the Holy Trinity?
Why did Jesus submit to a baptism?
He didn’t need to be baptized since he was God’s beloved Son, blameless and sinless, but he wanted to be baptized in order to be in complete solidarity with us, completely identified with us and make it possible for us to be completely identified with him.
So, what we hear today is not only a revelation to us about the Blessed Trinity, but also a revelation about who we are created to become. Both God’s glory and our dignity are revealed in the Baptism of the Lord.
Jesus became one with us in all things but sin and in doing so, he sanctified us and made us a holy people. Jesus makes holy everything and everyone that he touches, everything and everyone that he approaches, everything and everyone that he takes to himself. He made us holy by taking on our flesh. He made us holy by accepting a human baptism. He made baptism holy by his baptism. He made the water used in baptism holy by being immersed in it.
Jesus wished to be baptized, to take on our need for baptism so that we might be clothed in His divine dignity.
We all must imitate Jesus in our lives. In some way we have to imitate Jesus’ baptism. How can we do that in real life?
Obviously, by being baptized ourselves, and making sure our children are baptized. Baptism is the sacrament that cleanses us of all our sin, makes us children of God, makes us members of the Church, gives us sanctifying grace and pours out into our lives the Holy Spirit. Yes this is the most fundamental and important way to imitate Jesus in his baptism.
But imitating Jesus in His baptism is more than a once in a lifetime imitation, so how can we do that? Let me tell you the parable.
Parable of the Coatless Gambler.
There is a stretch of road called connecting two states. Nearly 15 years ago, a man was driving a very old pickup truck out of one state and toward the border of the other. It was a very cold day, being toward the end of December, and he was thinking he was grateful for the well-functioning heater in that old pickup as he was rounding a corner. Unexpectedly, to his right he caught sight of a pedestrian walking toward the state border, shuffling quickly in the cold. He had no coat, no gloves and no hat. The driver pulled over at the nearest side road and turned around to wait for the man coming toward him. When he did, the driver rolled down the window (the blast of cold air startled him) and he called out to the walker, “You need a ride?” “Yes!” was the answer, so the man hopped in the passenger side and they sped off. “Why are you walking in the cold with no coat, gloves or hat?” the driver asked. “I was at the casino down south of here all night. My family left me there. I am walking home” the man answered. The driver thought to himself that the man must have gambled away everything he had and his family was upset enough with him to leave him stranded. He said, “Well, I can take you across the river a few miles. You can warm up a bit on the way.” The drive was short, but long enough for the man to be warmed. He still had about a 20 mile walk if he were to make it home. When the driver eventually pulled over, the man go out and thanked the driver, who thought, “I can’t let that guy go out in the cold without a coat.” So he took off the coat he had on and handed it to the man, saying, “Take it. I have another.” The last thing the driver of that old truck remembered was the man putting on that coat and zipping it up. Since that time, the driver has wondered if maybe Jesus had appeared to him in the disguise of a coatless gambler.
Friends, this is a parable of fraternal love, solidarity with the poor, and an act of charity without judgment of others. It is a true story that show us one way we can imitate what Jesus did for us at his Baptism.
To give away your coat is a way of identifying yourself with another person, of putting aside what is rightfully yours so that someone else may be raised up in dignity and given glory. To give a coat to a person in need is to strip ourselves of a sign of our dignity so someone else might be clothed in it.
Jesus takes off his divine coat today in the Gospel and hands it to all of us to wear, because we are far too poor to even begin to buy one for ourselves. The glory that is rightfully Jesus’ and his alone as God the Son, which we hear about in the Baptism of the Lord, he confers on us in our baptism. He gives us his coat, his dignity.
My friends, when we give relinquish our dignity, our “coats,” so a poor man or woman can be raised up in dignity, the heavens do open (although we may not hear the voice) and God says of us, “You are my beloved son or daughter in whom I am well-pleased!”