Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary- Homilies

"Humble Submission to Jesus Opens the Floodgates of Grace for Our Souls"
Fr. Jonathan L. Reardon
9 January 2011
Year A

These past two weeks or so we have been focusing on the infant Jesus – the birth of God in human history. We have celebrated the dawning of the fulfillment of the plan of salvation announced at the Fall of Adam and Eve. But today we must shift gears a bit. Today we find Jesus as an adult. He has grown in wisdom, knowledge, and stature. Today’s Feast of the Baptism of the Lord begins the mission of the Redeemer – a mission that would take Him three and a half years down the road to His death on the cross and the complete fulfillment of the reconciliation between God and mankind. Here we celebrate that moment when Jesus Himself went down into the waters of the Jordan River to be baptized by St. John. Even though He had no sin of His own, He submitted Himself to this ritual act. In this sacred action, Jesus teaches something about His mission. He reminds us, first of all, that due to His divine nature, the gestures and actions of the Son of God have an eternal and sacred meaning. In no way did He need to be baptized but when those ordinary waters run down the head of the Savior they become holy – thus Jesus sanctifies for us the waters of baptism for all eternity. As it marked the beginning of His public ministry – so too, our own baptism marks the beginning of our lives as Christians, as believers in and followers of Christ. It is through the grace of baptism that makes us “born again.” Here, the stain of original sin is washed away and we are given a new life of grace in the Holy Spirit, a life that gives us participation – a direct connection – with the Spirit and Life of Christ and that of the Church. Thus He marks us as His sons and daughters forever.

There is something, however, that strikes me about this Gospel passage in particular. St. Matthew reports that St. John was hesitant to baptize the Savior: “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?” He says. Jesus replies: “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” The first meaning behind the words of Jesus – “to fulfill all righteousness” – points us toward, as we have said, the sanctification of the waters of baptism for all eternity. But secondly, John recognized His need for Jesus to baptize him, to be cleansed by the Savior and not vice versa. He is resistant, hesitant, and perhaps even a little frightened. But notice the humility of both men. It’s the Creator being baptized by the creature; the Savior submitting Himself to the means salvation to one in need of redemption. John yields to the wishes of Jesus and the heavens were opened, the Spirit in the form of a dove descended upon Jesus and the voice of the Father was heard: “this is my beloved Son…” and the result is beginning of Jesus’ mission of salvation – it is the beginning of the work of the restoration of harmony between God and humanity – work that is continued in the Church through Her sacraments – in particular that of Baptism, Eucharist, and Penance.

But how often do we find ourselves, much like St. John in the beginning of this passage, hesitant, reluctant, and even resistant of the way in which Jesus wants to act and work in and through us? How often do we, maybe not so blatantly, refuse to allow His grace to transform us? Perhaps because we get a little too comfortable with where we are in relation to God. Perhaps we do not think we need to progress any more in our spiritual lives. Perhaps we do not like to be challenged in our faith. Perhaps we are unmotivated to learn more and have grown lukewarm. But we, like St. John, have to be humble enough to let God act in and through us – for it was his humble submission to Jesus that opened the gates of salvation for all nations, for all time and eternity. When we do the same, humbly submit to God, acknowledge our sins before Him, open our hearts to Him and let Him speak and act in us we see with eyes of our faith something truly amazing, something that reaches beyond ourselves: Jesus coming to us, being present to us and identifying with us. So our prayer must be to let Him in, to let Him penetrate the deepest recesses of our hearts, every fiber and fabric of our being – we must give Him permission. Then do we truly become servants of God, then the words of Isaiah in our first reading – traditionally applied to Christ but could truly be applied to us – have a profound and real affect on our relationship with God: “Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, upon whom I have put my spirit.”

As we close the Christmas Season and begin the Season of Ordinary Time where we contemplate and meditate upon the work and Mission of the Redeemer may our prayer this day and every day be a prayer giving our Lord permission to speak and act in and through us so that we too may hear the voice of the Father – “this is my beloved son, this is my beloved daughter, in whom I am well pleased.”

Rev. Jonathan L. Reardon is a priest for the diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts.
He serves at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in West Springfield, MA


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