Baptism of the Lord A 2020

Let me start with a funny story about a sad time in my life.  My great friend Steve and I grew up in the same town.  Incredibly, as my Mom was dying of cancer, his Mom died in a tragic car accident.  I went over to visit Steve’s family and they asked me if I would preach at her funeral.  I told them I would do the best that I could.  The funerals were one day apart at the same church.  I preached Steve’s Mom’s funeral on a Monday and then presided at my own Mom’s on Tuesday.  Of course, Steve came and later came up to me and said, “Bob, I thought what you said about my mother was beautiful.” I said, “Thank you.” But then he said, “Well, I thought it was great until I heard what you said about your own mom. Then I thought you kind of mailed in my mother’s homily.”

Perhaps we could feel the same way about the baptism of the Lord.  It was spectacular. The skies were rent in two, the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove descended upon Jesus and a voice came from heaven, declaring, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”  Compared to that, our baptism seems mundane.  That did not happen at my baptism, or yours, nor at the baptism I did on Saturday.  But that would be missing the mark but a wide margin for Jesus’ baptism is all about our baptism.  He did not emerge from the water any holier or any more the Son of God than before.  But, we are transformed in baptism.  And in precisely in the ways shown at the Baptism of the Lord.

St. Paul got it.  That we who are baptized into Christ are forever united to Christ.  We share his life.  So at baptism the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit that inhabited the body of Jesus, came down to rest upon us.  We might not have heard the voice, but baptism ensures we are the beloved of God. And yes, we are chosen as well.  In us, God is well pleased with us exactly how we are; not as we imagine we should be.  Even with all our faults and limitations, God is well pleased in us.

Sure we cloud this picture with sin and muck it up by our actions, but the truth of who we are lies in our baptism.  God does not, cannot take back love.  The definitional moment of our life is baptism.  From that moment we can track our truest selves as beloved, belonging and the desired of God.

If only there was a way we could remind ourselves of this miraculous gift.  Well here is a trick.  Stand behind a holy water font, dip in the fingers of your right hand and make the sign of the cross. Pretty novel I know.  And whether you make this action with the greatest of intention or you make a sloppy Long Island sing of the cross, you are renewing the wonderful moment God chose and celebrated you as God’s own.

Wouldn’t it be great to begin your day recalling this grace, this incredible power you have been given?  It is not impossible.  Go ahead.  Steal our holy water and bring it home.  I mean you don’t need a bucket, just enough to get your day off on the right foot.  You can bring water to me and ask me to bless it and make it holy.  I’m not bragging.  It is just something I can do.

And it would be worth it.  Remember each day the gift of your baptism.  Begin every day seeing yourself the way God sees you. If we understood that, really understood what we have been given, no fear would trouble us, no despair would conquer us and no mercy escape us.  Let us make our baptism the true mark of our life – when the Holy Spirit came down upon us, when God named us beloved and we knew our God was well pleased with us.