Homily for Baptism of the Lord
In today’s First Reading from Isaiah we read about “a light for the nations” which “opens the eyes of the blind.” In the Second Reading in Acts 10, we read how Jesus “went about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil.” Here’s the problem. Jesus didn’t heal all ho where oppressed. He didn’t heal all who were blind. He could have. With one command he could have said, ”Let all blind people of the world be healed!”
Why didn’t he?
Scripture scholar Eleanor Stump proposes one possible reason. FIRST: God is committed to the good of particularity.
God does not offer news about the Messiah as an impersonal news flash, which is directed impartially and haphazardly to all humanity. He identifies Jesus as his Son to particular people – at a specific time. Christ does not issue an impersonal decree about nameless “blind people” taken as some amorphous group. Christ heals ONE particular blind person, who happens to be at that particular place, at the exact specific time when Christ was also there.
Why is this important to you? Eleanor continues. “You might feel you’re just An unnoticed member of your company, an invisible person among many ordinary people in your town, one parishioner among several hundreds of St. Monica parishioners worshipping this weekend.”
Not to God.
God does not deal with people as faceless members of a collective. You are important to God. You stand out as the particularly-unique-only-created-once-in-a-lifetime person you are. He calls, and he heals one particular person at a time, as each individual comes to him.”
Here’s a second reason perhaps. By means of your Baptism – the same Baptism that Jesus received – God wants you to help him save the world.
At one of his weekly General Audiences entitled “Take the Grace of Baptism and Become a Light for All,” Pope Francis said this about our Baptism:
The star appearing in the sky kindled in their minds and in their hearts a light that moved them to seek the great Light of Christ. Baptism illuminates us from within with the light of Jesus. … In virtue of this gift, every baptized person – no exceptions- is called to become “light”––the light of the faith they have received for their brothers, especially for those who are in darkness and do not perceive glimmers of light on the horizon of their life.
Your Baptism is the point of departure for a journey of conversion that lasts our whole life.” Every baptized person is one of God’s “glimmers of light” signifying the light of Christ that enlightens every person.
The Holy Father is proposing the idea of “The Both – And.” We are liturgically in a “middle place” between Christmastide and Ordinary Time. As a Church – as a world – we are in a middle place as well. We stand in the time between the appearance of Jesus signified by the star and a voice from heaven – and Christ’s second coming. In this middle time and space, things are not finished. The Kingdom has not yet been fulfilled, yet Jesus says that “the Kingdom is in your midst.” (See Luke 17:20–21).
You have been thrust into this middle space. This presents two questions:
- How have you received “the light of faith” that is valuable for your brothers and sisters?
- How has God called you be a light for someone in darkness?
In Making Time and Space,” Gerald Darring presents a poetic image of the dove. “There is a gentleness about the dove. This has earned for this bird a universal association with peace. But the dove also has a wail. It reminds us of one who is suffering.” The dove is a bird of “The Both – And.”
We see the same in the life of John the Baptist. He was the middleman placed right in the middle of this middle time and place. He pointed back to Isaiah – and forward to Jesus, connecting the whole plan.
A few more related questions from Anne Osdieck:
- What or who are the “middlemen or -women” who connect you with God?
- In what ways has God used you to serve as one who is in the middle?
- Is God calling you now to stand in the breach between suffering and peace in the life of someone? Can you name them? What would that call entail?
- Are you at a place now, where God is sending a person or people, combined with circumstances, to carry you? Can you accept that? How is God speaking to you through that? What is God saying?
Audio version of the homily is here: