A Cycle – Feast of the Baptism of the Lord 20
Mt. 3: 13-17
In a homily in 2017 on the day of this feast, I said Jesus did not enter the water to be sanctified but to sanctify the water. Today as we do each year we celebrate that moment in time, when Jesus has left the obscurity of his life with Joseph and Mary and begins his mission to establish the kingdom of God on earth, reveal the nature of God to us and to restore us so we can stand take our rightful place as sons and daughters of God.
The story we hear in Matthews gospel is so familiar we do not take the time to reflect on it because is all about Jesus and his anointing for ministry. It is like that same story we hear from Grandpa; we hear it so often we do not think beyond the reason it is being told. There is always a lesson in the story for us to apply to ourselves. Paul gives us a clue about the lesson in today’s second reading when he said, “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power” (Acts 10:38).
There is something going on in this story that we need to pay attention to and it is time for us to do what Mary of Bethany did and that is sit at the feet of Jesus and learn something about God and ourselves. One of those lessons is God has a plan to equip us for holiness and to empower us to be bold witnesses of God love. We tend to think of the divine aspect of Jesus and ignore the human aspect of Jesus’s nature. That human side was not capable of doing anything on its own but depended on the power of the Holy Spirit working within him to work miracles. Just consider the scene at the tomb of Lazarus. Jesus first looks toward heaven and then he says Father you hear me; you always hear and then he invokes the power of God calling Lazarus from the tomb.
Paul explains this human side dependent on God when he wrote, “…though being in the very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage. Rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in the likeness of man” (Phl. 2:6-7). Jesus humbled himself before John not seeking sanctification or repenting but he stepped into the water seeking the transforming work of the Holy Spirit and its power, equipping him to fulfill God’s plan and in the process showing us the way to be who God created us to be. That action changed the way we look at baptism.
It is no longer the act of just repentance and turning back to God. An act we repeat each Easter season when we renounce Satan and profess our faith in God, in Christ and the Holy Spirit. The importance of water and the Spirit is critical to becoming disciples and fulfilling the mission of building the kingdom of God. Why do you think Jesus said to the woman at the well, if you drink of the water that I will give you will never thirst again (Jn. 4:14)? What is this water Jesus offers us?
What do you think about when you reflect on water and how God used it in His relationship with us? Water was used to free God’s chosen people from slavery when he parted the Red Sea. Water was used also to destroy evil as we saw in the story of Noah and the return of the Red Sea to its normal state destroying the Egyptians as they attempted to enslave the Israelites once more. But Jesus is not talking about ordinary water is he when he speaks of the water, he will give us.
What is this water and why is the one thing that will satisfy our hunger? Think for a moment of the conversation with the woman at the well. She said to Jesus, “give me this water” (vs. 15). If you remember the story, Jesus does not give her water he tells her go and get your husband. This does not mean he did not do something within her for she goes to the town and with conviction tells everyone about Jesus and they are in awe and believed in Christ. She was changed enough by the water Jesus offered her to become an evangelist converting the entire town to a belief in Jesus Christ. She went from hiding from people to a boldness that only could come from the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus later in John 7 during the Festival of the Tabernacles, stands up and says to the crowd, “…my teaching is not my own, it comes from the one who sent me” (Jn. 7:16). Again, showing us that humility of dependence on God in Jesus. This is our destiny to be Christ like (Rom. 8:29) and we will not attain it unless we drink of the water Jesus desires to give us. He did not just say those words to the woman at the well. No, he repeats them to the crowd during the Feast of Tabernacles and we must take the time to reflect on his words. For this is the water of life we are being offered. This water will satisfy our hunger not our thirst. This water is the anointing Paul talks about Jesus receiving as he enters the water seeking God’s promise.
Jesus cried out, crying out is more like a call to awaken not to hear his words and quickly forget them. Jesus cries out, “…if anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink…. for from me will flow living water” (Jn. 7:37-38). The woman at the well is a picture of us. We hide our sin from the world, but this living water is ours if we are bold enough to ask for it. If we do ask for it, we will become bold witness of God’s forgiveness and love. We instinctively know there is more God wants us to experience. Jesus is revealing the first step to experience God’s power and forgiveness is to open ourselves to allow the Spirit to descend on us and drink deeply from the living waters offered us.