Homily – Fr. Seamus – Baptism of the Lord 1/10/21

BAPTISM OF THE LORD (B) + Jan 10, 2021 + (RDNGS: Isaiah 55:1-11; 1 John 5:1-9; Mark 1:7-11)

A voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” (MK 1:7-11) Is there a more important message than this identification of Jesus? We are told “It is the manifestation (“Epiphany”) of Jesus as Messiah of Israel and Son of God.” (CC 535)

But why did this important message come through a voice from heaven? A voice from heaven can be heard only by those who are there then (in that place and at that time)“Only Jesus saw that the sky was rent in two; only he saw the dove descend; and the voice spoke directly to him. There is no indication that anyone else saw or heard anything. This appears to have been a private affirmation of his messianic importance.” (Bergant, Dianne, Preaching the New Lectionary, Liturgical Press, Collegeville, 1999) What about everybody else? Isn’t it important for everyone to know that Jesus is God’s beloved Son with whom God the Father is well pleased?

This same sort of puzzle arises from Isaiah who says the Messiah will open the eyes of the blind; and the Gospels testify that Christ really did so. But he opened the eyes of only a few blind people – those blind people who were there then (in that place and at that time). What about all the other blind people, in other places, in other times? Why didn’t Jesus heal all blindness everywhere with one impersonal command: e.g. “Let all the blind people of the world be healed.”?

Perhaps this is what we can learn from today’s readings: In the voice from heaven and in the miracles of Christ, God shows that he is committed to the good of particularity, i.e. … of each particular person. God does not send the news about the Messiah as an impersonal message directed impartially to all humankind. He identifies Jesus as his Son by a voice from heaven heard by a particular person at a particular time. Similarly, Christ does not issue an impersonal decree about nameless blind people taken as a group. Christ heals some particular blind people who happened to be at a particular place at the particular time when Christ was there also.

And this is where we come in. Sometimes, on our community bulletin board we see group photographs on some of the Christmas Cards from other communities throughout the world, or when we surf the web sites of some Cistercian communities, we might feel that, as an individual monk we are also just an unnoticed, nameless member of one Cistercian community. But as far as the Lord is concerned, each one of us stands out as the particular person he/she is. God does not relate to us as nameless members of a community. He calls and he heals one particular person at a time … as each individual monk/nun comes to him.

But then you yourself – not as another member of the Order, nor as a member of this community, but you, the real you – need to come to the Lord, to face him, know him, love him, and let him heal you. Come as yourself, as you are, here and now.  (SOURCE: Stump, Eleonore, SLU, 2018)

“Each one of us has been sacramentally assimilated to Jesus, who in his own baptism anticipates his death and resurrection. Each of us must enter into his death and resurrection. We must enter into humble self-abasement and repentance, go down into the water with Jesus in order to rise with him, be reborn of water and the Spirit so as to become the Father’s beloved son in the Son and “walk in newness of life.” – Rom 6:4. (CC 537).

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