Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary - Homilies


Solemnity of the Baptism of the Lord
Fr. Jonathan L. Reardon
January 12th, 2014
Year A

As a child, I spent a lot of time in and out of hospitals. I was a very sickly baby. Born with severe asthma, I was once rushed to the hospital by ambulance due to a collapsed lung. On top of that I was also born with clubbed feet and spent a lot of time in casts. I don’t remember this but my mother told me that I taught myself to walk with the casts on my feet. Ever since then, I have always been a very independent person. I always wanted to be able to do the things the other kids were doing even if I had to struggle. My parents didn’t stop me. They let me go for it. I played baseball and basketball. I became a good skier and golfer. Due to this sort of mentality, it has always been difficult for me to rely on others. I remember one time after ankle surgery in high school nearly falling over on my crutches because my backpack was too heavy. I had to let someone carry the bag for me. I didn’t need anyone’s help. Perhaps this is the source of my pride today.

St. Matthew portrays John the Baptist as someone completely the opposite of my own character… humble. While both Luke and Mark narrate this scene at the Jordan River, only Matthew records this dialogue between John and Jesus. John objects to his baptizing Jesus: “I need to be baptized by you and yet you are coming to me?” What a statement of humility! John acknowledges his subordinate role in relation to the Messiah. He views himself as a sinner, one in need of baptism by the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. John is uncomfortable with this reversal of roles. Jesus has to explain to him the necessity of His baptism – to fulfill all righteousness. In other words, to show that which is proper moral conduct as a disciple of the Lord being obedient to God’s will as well as the fulfillment of God’s desire to inaugurate His plan of salvation. John must allow this to happen, it is necessary. Jesus’ intention is to identify Himself with sinners, to become one with us, in order that we might become one with Him. He does so, not because He needs to be baptized but because we do. We are the ones in need of His grace, mercy and love. In this way, we have access to Him. Even before the baptism, John recognizes this need for Jesus right away.

In dramatic fashion, Jesus demonstrates His solidarity with sinful Israel by going into the same waters that the repentant crowds had been entering. In this way, Jesus shows that He has come to unite Himself with sinners and foreshadows how He will bear the sins of all humanity at the climax of His mission when He takes up His cross.

Jesus went down into the waters of the Jordan because He knew that the people needed Him. They needed Him to enter fully into their human condition in order to become one with them and redeem them. Does He not do the same for us today? From His throne in heaven, Jesus comes to this altar, in the form of bread and wine, to become one with us in Holy Communion in order to save us, to redeem us … because we need Him. There is no greater proof of this than the Eucharist. Whenever we receive Holy Communion, we are receiving God himself as our nourishment. Could He come any closer to us than that? And whenever we stop by a Catholic Church, we can go and kneel before the tabernacle where the consecrated hosts are reserved. Jesus is waiting there for us all the time, just so He can be ready whenever we need to talk to Him, so we can always know where to find Him. And near every tabernacle in the world, a little flame is burning in the sanctuary lamp. Usually it’s red, the color of love and blood. It reminds us that Christ loves us so much that He shed His blood for us. There is this light, patiently reminding us of God’s constant, loving gaze to warm and soften our hearts. And He has given us the Church to show us the way to heaven, to show us how to be obedient sons and daughters of God, to show us proper moral conduct and how to be true disciples of the Lord. Yet, Some Christians don't believe in the Eucharist or the Church. They say that they are spiritual but not religious. They say that since Christ lives in their hearts, they don't need a tabernacle, they don’t need the Eucharist or the Church to tell them what do, or how to live. “I pray in my own way,” some say. It is true that Christ lives in our hearts - He took up residence there at our baptism, just as He took our place here on earth at His baptism. But Jesus knows human nature; He knows that we still need to be able to come to Him in the tabernacle. We are material beings who live in a particular place and time, and Jesus wants to meet us right where we're at. He does that in the mystery of the Eucharist. He comes to us. How is that He comes to us when we are the ones who need Him, the ones who ought to be going to Him? What is the lesson here? We need Him. We need Him because we cannot forgive our own sins. We cannot make ourselves one with God. We cannot get ourselves into heaven. No, because just like John, we are not Christ, we are not the Savior. None of us is God. We need Him.

May the divine meeting that takes place at this Holy Mass help us to acknowledge our need for God. May His grace soften our hearts to be more like John the Baptist – humble and obedient sons and daughters of God and the Church.









Fr. Jon Reardon

Rev. Jonathan L. Reardon is a priest for the diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts.
He serves at Sacred Heart Parish in Pittsfield, MA.



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