Homily for January 12

Baptism of Christ by Daniel Bonnell

Homily for the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord
(Scriptures for today's Mass)

Audio for homily

Have you ever loved someone who disappointed you?
Have you ever loved someone who forgot you?
Have you ever loved someone who rejected you?
Have you ever loved someone who betrayed you?
Has there been someone in your life whom you still loved even after
that person disappointed, or hurt, or rejected or betrayed you?

It’s that way with God and us, too.
Let’s see how today’s gospel might help us understand that.

Imagine that while we we’re celebrating Mass here,
imagine we’re all distracted by a bright light
piercing through the roof, through the ceiling,
and imagine that out of the light there comes a dove,
and imagine the dove descends over YOU,
and imagine that through the hole in the ceiling,
from the skies above, there comes a voice, saying,
“This is my beloved son”  -or- “This is my beloved daughter”
--  “with whom I am well pleased.”

It could happen!

Well, at least most of that could happen.
God’s light could piece the roof of the church
and God could send the Spirit like a dove,
and a voice could say to any one of us,
“You're my beloved: my beloved daughter, my beloved son.”
That much could happen because God can do all things
and because, without exception, each one of us is beloved by God.
The part I can’t guarantee is God saying to each of us,
“I’m well pleased with you.”
That might be the case – or it might not be.

But whether God is well pleased with you and me or not,
each of us is still God’s beloved.
Even if we have disappointed or forgotten God
or rejected or betrayed the Lord  --  God still loves us.
He may not be all that pleased with us, but he never stops loving us
because God’s love for us doesn’t depend on, doesn’t come and go,
in proportion to how pleasing or displeasing may be
our words, our deeds, our lives in God’s eyes.
God loves in each of us the person he created
and each of us human beings is created
in the image and the likeness of God.

Of course, God loved his Son Jesus
– and was very well pleased with him.
That’s what the voice from the heavens told us in the gospel today.
Jesus is the Son of God and so he is divine.
But Jesus is also born in the flesh and so he fully human.
He is human in all things – except sin.  Jesus never sinned.

And that might tempt us to think:
“Hey! That’s not fair!
Jesus is God so it was easy for him not to sin.
And if he didn’t sin, 
then how can we say Jesus is fully human?”
And it’s at just that point
where we begin to fail to understand our own humanity.  

Jesus came not only to reveal his divinity to us;
he came also to reveal us to ourselves.
Not only is he truly God. He is truly human.
And he is truly human
precisely because he does not sin.
All of our sin is nothing other than the rejection
of the truth of our humanity.*   

And the truth of our humanity is that God is our maker,
that each of us is God’s beloved
and that each of us is called to live according to God’s word:
loving God above all // and loving our neighbor as ourselves.
Anything less than that // is less than truly human
and it’s in being less than truly human, that our sin is found.

And so it is that in Jesus, in whom no sin was found,
we see what it means to be truly and fully human.

Our humanity is not a curse to be endured;
it's our calling to embrace - even as Jesus did.

We’re the ones, you and I, 
who have disappointed and forgotten God;
we’re the ones who have rejected his law
and betrayed his love in our lives.
We’re the ones who have been less than truly human to one another
and less than truly human as we stand before God who made us.

And yet in spite of all of that, God has never stopped loving us
but rather calls us to be what we were created to be:
fully human beings,
called to share in the divinity of Christ’s love.

And that’s what we do every time we celebrate the Eucharist.
We gather under the sign of Christ’s fragile humanity,
his sinless self offered for us in suffering and sacrifice
that we might come to know how fully
we are all loved by God.

Pray that we who have been less than fully human
may be nourished by Christ’s divinity in the Eucharist;
that we might grow in loving God above all
and loving our neighbor as ourselves.
Pray with me that with Christ’s divine help
we might become fully human. 

*John Kavanagh, SJ


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