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Sunday Readings for Jan. 9, 2011 (BaptismA)
By Fr. Joseph Pellegrino
“And Jesus came upon John baptizing in the Jordan.” This was His moment. Jesus would perform an act that would change the course of human history. He did this even though that action would ultimately cost Him His life. Jesus, although infinitely superior to John, allowed John to baptize Him as an expression of His solidarity with all those who were looking to change mankind.
From that point on, Jesus became a public person. He would draw the support of thousands and the scorn of the establishment. Eventually, He would be killed, but in the process He would provide life for all who followed Him. The Easter rites and Orthodox Church are correct in emphasizing the Baptism of the Lord in their celebration of the Epiphany. This is the point in the Lord’s life that Jesus made public the direction his life would take and the death that his decision would lead him.
With the billions of people there are in the world, it seems ludicrous for any of us to think that we can make a decision at one point in our lives that will have a tremendous effect upon humanity. But we can. In fact we are called upon as Christians to make a difference in the world. “Go make a difference,” we sing. We can take on the action of Christ, and participate in his transformation of the world.
Am I being melodramatic? No, not really. Everyone has benefitted from the determination of others to live and die as Christians. Most of us can say that we are whom we are because our parents made up their minds that they would do everything possible to raise us as Christians. Many of you are sacrificing a great deal of material pleasures because you wanted to bring Christian children into the world. As a result
these children have each brightened the world with a unique reflection of Jesus.
And you Teens have also had to make difficult choices in life. You have had to get out of dangerous situations and have been mocked for it. One guy is mocked, “What, do you think alcohol is going to kill you?” A girl is challenged, “You’re just afraid of sex. Grow up!” Or maybe its something like, “You mean you are a senior and haven’t tried weed yet?” Or, “Come on, everybody rips that store off.”
You have been and you will be mocked for choosing Christ throughout your life. You went into the Jordan River. But you made the choice to put up with the scorn for the sake of that relationship you have with Christ. Others might laugh at you, but down the road a piece, maybe a long way down the road, that guy or girl might try to be a better person because she or he knew someone who put Christ first in life. That person, those people who mock you now may be people who will chose to be like you later. That is the battle we are in, the Battle for the Kingdom of God. It is a battle worth fighting, infinitely worth fighting.
John Donne was correct in his poem, “No man is an island.” Everything that we do has an effect upon everyone else. And when we do something extraordinary, we have an extraordinary effect upon others. When we make a critical decision for the Lord, when we decide that we will take a leap outside the status quo of society and plunge into our faith in the Lord, into the Jordan River with Jesus, we effect a tremendous change upon humanity.
The true progress of humanity cannot be measured in terms of technological advances, what we have learned to do. The true progress of humanity can only be measured in terms of ethical advances, how we have learned to behave. When
we join Jesus in setting into motion God’s plan for humanity, we help transform mankind from a loose knit group of selfish individuals to reflection of God’s love upon the world.
Jesus saw John baptizing, and knew what he had to do. We have those brief moments of clarity in each of our lives when we can make a difference. We can choose the Lord and go into action. We have to take advantage of the opportunity that is presented to us to join in the development of humanity. “But I’m afraid,” we sob. Hey, suck it up. We have to suck in our stomachs, firm up our shaking knees, as the Letter to the Hebrews says, and be Christians.
The success of our Christian choices is guaranteed by the presence of Spirit. The reward of our choices for the Kingdom is promised by the voice that says, “This is my beloved in whom I am well pleased.”