**To listen to this homily, click on the title**
First Reading: Is 42:1-4, 6-7
Responsorial Song: Ps 29:1-2, 3-4, 3, 9-10
Second Reading: Acts 10:34-38
As Father said we gather tonight to celebrate the baptism of the Lord. I commend all of you for your wisdom in waiting until this afternoon to come to mass. Those of us who were here this morning got our own baptism…a baptism by rain and then snow! We’re here to celebrate, to bring to a close the Christmas season, this great celebration of the baptism.
How many of you have followed the story this week of the homeless guy, Ted Williams - the guy with the radio voice? For the benefit of those who didn’t catch it, let me recap it for a minute. There’s a guy named Ted Williams who had been in radio and had gotten fired. It’s amazing how some people go in different directions when that happens and for him unfortunately he took the darker road - several years of homelessness as it turns out, some drugs, some crime, some alcohol – all of this said openly and publicly. He became homeless and he would stand on the corner with a big cardboard sign that said something to the affect of…I have a voice that was given to me by God…the greatest radio voice around. As luck would have it an enterprising reporter came up to him this week with his video camera going and he said to the guy,“I’m gonna make you earn your dollar. I want to hear your great radio voice.” And so this homeless man came up to the car and he said something to the effect of, “If you’re listening to the greatest oldies, you’re listening to 96.7. It was amazing. The guy took the video and put it on the internet and it became what is known as viral, which means everybody started watching it. And all of a sudden within the week he was on all the network morning shows. He was given an offer to be the voice of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese – whatever the voice of macaroni and cheese is! He had an offer to become the voice of the Cleveland Cavaliers. All of these incredible things in less than a week. He got a second chance. It’s an incredible opportunity for him - a second chance. What he’s going to do with that, we don’t know. It’s his choice as to what he’s going to do with the second chance that he’s gotten.
Now why do I bring that up today at the celebration of the baptism of the Lord? I bring it up because to me as I thought about it this week, as I prayed about it, and as I thought about that story and I thought about the message for today, I realized that in a certain sense, the story of Ted Williams is in a way an allegory about all of mankind. An allegory about you and me.
You see a long time ago our first parents fell from grace. Our first parents, through their own free will, chose to disobey God and His will and they fell from grace. And they very really, and very truly, became homeless. They couldn’t go home to God. But God promised all throughout history that He was going to give us a second chance. He was going to send the One who would come and reverse that decision. He promised that there would be One who would come in gentleness, in kindness, and in love to open the eyes of the blind and all of those beautiful things that He promised. And in time, in His own time, God finally sent that One. We celebrated the revelation of Jesus Christ as the Jewish Messiah on Christmas day. We celebrated that birth, the one in Bethlehem, who was the Jewish Messiah, who was the promised One. Last week, we celebrated the Epiphany, the revelation of Jesus Christ as savior of the entire world. But tonight we celebrate the revelation of Jesus Christ as the Son of God. When Jesus walked into the Jordan River to be baptized by John – it was a problem. John recognized it. He knew that Jesus didn’t need to be baptized. But the very fact that that baptism appears in the gospel is the proof that it really did happen. The baptism of Jesus presented a problem for the first century Christians. There were still people around who thought that John the Baptist was the messiah. And they said look - Jesus presented himself for baptism, He must have had sin. So the fact that it’s even in the gospel is proof that it happened.
Why then did Jesus come to be baptized by John?
Most likely it was because for one thing He wanted to associated Himself with us. He wanted us to understand that He was a human, that He was a man. He was without sin. He did not need to be baptized but He wanted to connect with our humanity.
He also wanted us to follow Him into that river. He showed us the way. He showed us and led us into the waters of baptism. And so God presented the world finally and ultimately, the One who would come to give each one of us a second chance.
So today we celebrate not only the baptism of Jesus, but we celebrate our own baptism. You and I were brought to the river, for many it was just a bowl about this big! But we were brought to the river. We were baptized. And just as God had looked down, when Jesus was baptized, when He came up out of the water and God spoke and said, “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.” And when we were baptized, God said the same thing. This is my beloved son. This is my beloved daughter. In whom I am well pleased. And how wonderful is it when we hear daddy say, “This is my child. I’m so pleased.” When we were baptized that’s what God said. We get a second chance.
What we do with it – that’s our choice. We can choose then to follow Christ or we can choose to turn away and reject Him. It’s our choice.
So tonight let’s begin a journey of reflection. Let’s begin a journey of reflection – reflecting upon our own baptism. Reflecting upon what happened. Let’s recall to ourselves our own baptism. On Thursday and Friday with our little 3 and 4 year olds I tried to help lead them to an understanding of what they do when they reach up - and some of them still can’t reach it yet - but when mom and dad walk in and dip their fingers into the bowl as we come into church. We touch the water and we cross ourselves. What are we doing? Who knows? What is it we’re doing when we do that? And don’t say it’s just because we’ve always done it that way. We’re reminding ourselves of our baptism. Dipping our fingers into the bowl and reminding us of our own baptism. What happened that day? What happened when we were baptized?
We were invited to follow Christ - who is priest. We are called to be a priestly people. Only a few are called to be ordained to the priesthood but we’re all called to be a priestly peoples. What does that mean? It means we’re to stand in prayer and intercession for others - to pray for others. To attempt in our greatest ability to make holy the ground we walk on - to walk in holiness. To do God’s will not because we think we have to but because we want to - to be priestly people.
We’re called to follow Jesus the prophet. We’re called each one of us to be prophets. To speak God’s words of love and forgiveness – not only with our mouths but with our lives. To speak God’s words and to live His life as prophets.
And we’re called also to share with Jesus His kingship. He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He is the king of the universe. And when we are baptized He becomes our brother. We, you and I, share with Him that royal priesthood.
And so my dear friends we celebrate the baptism of the Lord, that in celebration of His baptism, we celebrate and remember and recall our own baptism. When Jesus Christ entered into the waters of baptism and invited us to do the same and won for us a second chance.
The question is, what are we going do with our second chance?