Thursday, January 7, 2016

Baptism of the Lord Sunday Cycle C

Welcome to read homilies for the Sundays of the year. These are sample homilies which you can read with devotion. You may use them in your own homilies without asking my permission. You may also change or edit these to fit them to your audience. A unique quality of these homilies is that they are Christ-filled. From beginning to end they present to us some aspect of Jesus so that beholding his glory we “are being transformed from glory to glory into his very image” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NAB).

Sinless and Yet Guilty

When a person suspected of a crime is brought before the court he is asked to make a plea of guilty or not guilty. If he doesn’t make any plea the court enters for him a plea of not guilty.

Usually such a person would enter the plea of not guilty. Only in rare cases would a person say before the court that he or she is guilty. This is because before the court a suspect is considered innocent until proven beyond reasonable doubt that he or she is guilty. Even if he knows that he is guilty he pleads that he is innocent.

But in the Gospel reading for today we see the case of a man who is completely innocent but he pleads that he is guilty. He tells the whole world that he is guilty by submitting himself to the baptism of John the Baptist, which is a baptism for those who have committed sins and are enjoined to repent or change their lifestyle. We heard from the reading today, “. . . and Jesus was at prayer after likewise being baptized”. In another Gospel story, that of Matthew, we read that John the Baptist refused to baptize Jesus, but Jesus insisted that John baptize him to “fulfill all of God’s demands” (3:14-15).  

By his baptism Jesus is telling us the truth which Paul the Apostle teaches in his second letter to the Corinthians, “For our sakes God made him who did not know sin to be sin, so that in him we might become the very holiness of God” (5:21). Peter also affirms that Jesus was completely innocent. He says in his first letter, “He (Christ) did no wrong; no deceit was found in his mouth” (2:22).

The question that we ask now is, How did Jesus become guilty since he was sinless, because his baptism which we celebrate today affirms that he is guilty?

The answer to that question is that Jesus became a guilty man by joining himself to guilty humanity. If he were to use logic he would say following the premise Paul gives in Romans 3:23, 'All men have sinned. I am a man. Therefore I have sinned and am guilty.'

In other words Jesus’ baptism is a clear affirmation of his humanity. He is a human being. He is a man. And because he is a human being he has acquired what human beings have acquired. And one of these is guilt.

This truth that Jesus is a human being is worth pondering upon today. This is because many of us think of him only as God. In fact probably in our catechism classes we were taught that because Jesus was God he was able to perform the miracles recorded in the Gospels. Perhaps we were told that Jesus acted as a human being when he was hungry, when he cried, when he was tired, but that he acted as a divine being, as God, when he performed miracles.

The baptism of Jesus which tells us that Jesus is a human being also tells us that when Jesus performed those miracles he was not really acting as God but he was still acting as man. In fact Paul tells us that Jesus emptied himself of his claim to divinity. In his letter to the Philippians he says, “Though he (Jesus) was in the form of God, he did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at. Rather, he emptied himself and took the form of a slave, being born in the likeness of men” (2:6-7). 

Jesus was truly God and remained God throughout his earthly life. But he was also truly man and remained completely man throughout his earthly life. He acted as a man even in the performance of his miracles. He said he did this by faith.

When Jesus told his disciples to heal and to perform miracles on their own, he did not tell them that first they have to be divine like him. All that was needed was faith. In Mark 12:23 we read, “I (Jesus) solemnly assure you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,' and has no inner doubts but believes that what he says will happen, shall have it done for him.” Again in another passage, Jesus says, “Everything is possible to a man who believes” (9:23). He did not say, “You must first be divine like me and then all things are possible to you.”

Jesus is telling us today: “You have all that it takes to perform miracles because you are a human being like me.” Thus, if today we do not perform miracles it is because we do not believe. We cannot tell Jesus, “We cannot perform miracles because we are only human beings”. We trust in our learning, in our education, in our wealth, in our social status, in all other things but we do not trust in God. We do not believe God can work wonders in our life.

Let us bow down our heads to pray.

Lord Jesus, pardon us for not really believing that you are truly a human being like us. Your baptism is your affirmation that you are also guilty because you have joined us, guilty human beings. Teach us to value our humanity as you value it. Teach us to completely believe in God who is able to perform wonders in our life if only we truly believe. Amen.

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