Solemnity of the Baptism of the Lord C (10 Jan 2010)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Jesus’ baptism began his prophetic career. Angels announced it from the beginning and humans spread the news, beginning with Mary. Gabriel announced that Jesus would be great1 because he would save his people from their sins.2 We’ve been baptized into Jesus, grafted to his body; indeed, we are his limbs and make him present in our world.
Jesus’ human limbs—each of us—are by no means artificial prosthetic, limbs. As human beings we are real, and our longing is to grow more real and become more alert, active and energetic. Our Christian way of living shapes our longings and our lives into prophetic careers, too.
The Christmas event—all the incidents taken together—has a public character. Even the angelic announcement of his birth emphasized this public character: he would save his people from their sins; and that Jesus would be the royal messiah, sharing the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.3
At his birth, an angel proclaimed the newborn Savior-king to shepherds, an entire class of Palestinian people, who stood very low on its social ladder. The angel announced, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”4 The Solemnity of Epiphany widened all the people to include all humanity, represented by the wise seekers from far east of Palestine.
For all the people—public. Monarchs—public. Monarchs are public people no matter how much they wish otherwise. Jesus was no ordinary monarch, as the angel announced to the shepherds: Today a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord.5 The Solemnity of the Baptism of the Lord recalls the announcement of announcements, when the divine voice affirmed Jesus as Son of God, as he had been announced long before by angels and prophets: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
Baptism in Jesus our Messiah begins our public career as his contemporary disciples. Our personal relationships with Jesus begun in baptism and nourished by his eucharist and sustained by the sacraments, are not private; they open onto the world and to others.
Each baptism reminds us that God’s Spirit fashions us as shares in the priestly, royal and prophetic career of our Savior Jesus. These last several weeks and months, even years, have invited Gesu parishioners to go public with their prophetic careers in personal, loving supportive ways to the families of many who have returned their dear ones to God. When death steals our young people and adults in the prime of life from us, our efforts to support each other are sorely challenged. So challenged are we that we fear for ourselves, our children, and we feel helpless and isolated by death. Our prophetic vocation cries out that each time death weighs us down and tries to sap our desire to live, our faith, the faith of Jesus, rallies us to stand together as one.
Our public character as Jesus’ human limbs today registers as light and comfort. Death bruises our hearts, yet in Jesus we comfort others even though we cannot fix their situations. Death isolates people; our prophetic vocation knits them again into us and through us into the fabric of all that is human. Our prophetic career courageously lived anoints fractured hearts and minds with a healing balm. Our prophetic career courageously lived brings to the sad, the oppressed and the broken-hearted a glimmer of the appearance of the glory of our great God and savior Jesus Christ.
Today the church closes its annual festival of the incarnation of God. We begin to do our best to move forward and live it as our public vocation for the sake of each other at Gesu as we live it so well for countless others near and far. The fact that we continue to baptize affirms that we are Jesus’ human limbs now and affirms our faith and hope that we will regain a sense of peace even though our lives have been altered forever.
In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, ask the Trinity to renew your sense of your prophetic career as Jesus’ disciples. Ask Mary, Joseph and John the Baptizer to present you to Jesus. Speak with Jesus: express what rises on your heart as you watch him be baptized for you. Beg for the grace to live your baptism with renewed courage and with fresh light of hope. Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. It reminds us each time we say it we always can use Jesus’ loving care no matter if we feel on top of the world or crushed by the unanswerable questions of ours or others’ grief.
- Luke 1.32.
- Matthew 1.21.
- Luke 1.32-33.
- Luke 2.10.
- Luke 2.11.