The Baptism of the Lord C: January 9, 2022
Luke 3: 15-16,21-22
By Rev. John Tran
There is a beautiful Native American parable about the sacredness of water.
Father Sky gives to Mother Earth the clouds, which in turn are filled with water to nurture the good earth. A single raindrop falls on a meadow and joins other raindrops to become a trickle. The trickle becomes a stream, and the stream becomes a river. The river then makes its way to the ocean, providing life giving water to every creature and seedling plant along the way. The sun lightens up and warms the ocean, transforming some of its clear blue water into mist. The mist rises to Father Sky, and becomes a cloud. And the cloud opens up and another raindrop falls to Mother Earth.
And another journey begins.
We are all like the raindrops, the ancients believed. We are all made from the same “holy stuff,” the water that is life. In our time, our mothers give birth to us and we ‘fall’ to the earth. Each one of us is unique, each one of us possesses our own identity; but we are all part of what has gone before us and what comes after us. And, with other drops of rain, we fall journey to the same ocean and then back to the Father.
Is this not the story of our life in Christ? Jesus was baptized, not because he had sinned or needed to repent and turn to the Father. No, rather, Jesus was baptized by John to show that he is part of us, and that he is not separated from us. Jesus has joined us as we are, and offers the waters of baptism to us so that we become sons and daughters of the Father.
And like this Native American parable, we do not just journey alone, but with all the saints who have gone before us. We constantly have to find our way back to the Father as we travel on our way. Even if we get off the right path, we can always return.
Baptism is not just a one-time rite of passage in our lives; it is an ongoing journey with God and to God, a journey across the waters to the dwelling place of the Father.
When leprosy broke out among the people of the Hawaiian Islands in the middle of the 19th century, the government authorities responded by establishing a leper colony on the remote island of Molokai. The victims were snatched by force from their families and sent to this island to perish. However, moved by their terrible plight, a young Belgian priest, Saint Damien De Veuster, asked permission from his superiors to minister to them. Straightaway he realized that there was only one effective way to do this, and that was to go and live among them. Having got permission, he went to Molokai.
At first, he tried to minister to the lepers while maintaining a certain distance. But he soon realized that he had to live among them in order to gain their trust. As a result he contracted leprosy himself. The reaction of the lepers was immediate and wholehearted. They embraced him and took him to their hearts. He was now one of them. There was no need, no point any more, in keeping his distance. The lepers had someone who could talk with authority about leprosy, about brokenness, about rejection and public shame. — Today’s Gospel tells us how, by receiving the baptism of repentance, Jesus became identified with the sinners whom He had come to save. When we become one with Jesus in Baptism, we pledge ourselves to become one with those around us. This is an ongoing journey which lasts until we begin our final journey joining God in our passage from life here on earth to that of heaven.
Today, we ask ourselves as we celebrate the Lord's baptism: how has this past Christmas Season renewed our understanding of being part of a family, a parish, a community? And most importantly, how can we put this insight into action?