My Dear Sisters and Brothers! John the Baptist, who put all his efforts to call his fellow country men and women to repentance and the subsequent baptism, breathed a similar sigh of relief when he saw ‘Jesus coming towards him.’ The Baptist knew that his preaching and baptizing couldn’t solve people’s sinfulness. He was holding the front line because with hope he was waiting for the ‘Chosen One of God’ to come to ‘take away the sin of the world.’ Praised be the Lord for coming there and then.
St John the Apostle, who was first a disciple of the Baptist, didn’t describe Jesus’ baptism in his Gospel. Instead he wrote down the testimony of his first mentor, John the Baptist, who witnessed that event: ‘I saw the Spirit coming down from heaven like a dove and resting on him… Yes, I have seen and I am the witness that he is the Chosen One of God.’
John the Baptist was not only a messenger or a reporter. What he had heard and seen changed his perception of Jesus. He was a relative of Jesus but in his testimony he reveals: ‘I did not know him myself.’ He says this not once but twice. How come that he didn’t know Jesus? He did not know that Jesus, his relative, whom he knew well as a family member, was the Chosen One of God, the Messiah, God himself. For this discovery one needs to have a revelation from above. On our own we can come to appreciate God as Almighty, Creator, powerful, all wise, etc. but to treasure God as God-Man who chooses to appear in the dirty water of the Jordan, in the midst of sinners, we need to have a revelation. It can come directly from God. It was the case of John the Baptist. I can come from the witness of the Church. It is our case. However whether it comes directly from God or through the witness of the Church it doesn’t make it easier to accept it. John the Baptist still struggled to agree to baptize Jesus in the same way and in the same dirty water he used for sinners. We also may struggle to accept that Jesus is God when he refuses to use his powers to fix up our messy world straight away.
My Dear Fellow Strugglers in faith! Even if at times, seeing what is happening around us, we may be astounded, we always hear at Mass the words of the Prophet from the Jordan: ‘Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world.’ As Jesus appeared in the murky Jordan as he appears in the murky world of ours. Behold, which is an invitation to contemplation and wonder, doesn’t freeze us though but it moves us.
Firstly it moves us to say: ‘Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say a word and my soul will be healed.’ Have you ever thought what someone who has never been to church could think at the moment? How strange, these people talk to a white disc! You may have grown used to this but remember that if you do talk to this white disc, if you call it your Lord, it has been revealed to you by the Church, by your participation in the life of the Church. The Church who for two millennia loved and worshipped Jesus in the Bread and Wine, has infused this faith in you and me. Praised be the Lord for revealing himself to us through the witness of the Church.
Secondly it moves us to make our way to the altar. There we encounter our Lord and Saviour, the Lamb of God, who comes to us ‘to take the sins of the world.’ How does he do that? By giving himself to us? ‘The Body of Christ. Amen. The Blood of Christ. Amen.’
Without rain the fires would continue ravaging the eastern states. Without the Body and Blood of Christ evil would ravage our souls and the world. By believing and receiving Jesus we, his Church, his Body on earth, allow Jesus to transform the landscape of the earth. It doesn’t mean that we are better than the other people. We are the people who hope for better by placing our faith in Jesus ‘the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.’
Today and every day, like those farmers and firefighters, we also breathe a sigh of relief because faced with messiness of our lives and the messiness of the world we still believe that we are not on our own. Jesus has come into this messiness of ours.
Praised be the Lord for coming to us here and now.