Sermons

January 12: Baptism of the Lord

“Peter proceeded to speak to those gathered in the house of Cornelius, saying: ‘In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him.'” Acts, 10:34-38

Today’s feast day of the Baptism of the Lord is an epiphany, namely the manifestation of Jesus, the human face of God. The point here is that Jesus is a person like us who takes the plunge in the Jordan River and is baptized.

In the Acts of the Apostles, we read Peter’s statement: “In truth, I see that God shows no partiality.” And yet, most dramatically, in the gospel, we hear a voice from heaven saying: “This is my beloved Son; with whom I am well pleased.”

In effect, this passage reminds us that Jesus represents God’s embrace of all his creation, all of humanity in its diversity and richness.

Today, we are reading from the very early chapters of Matthew’s gospel. Of course, you will recall that we read about John and Jesus just a few weeks ago during Advent. What’s so special about this?

Jesus is among us as a son, a brother, and one who brings healing and hope to humankind.

If we are meeting him for the first time, he appears as a young man possessing high personal power. At the Jordan River, John the Baptist sees and affirms Jesus in his special grace.

Perhaps we might call this encounter a form of empowerment where a person’s life unfolds, most notably in those early years or “wonder years” that can teach life-lessons and may open us to wonders or powers deep inside us. For a moment, let me take you back to my experience in the 1970s.

I’m very fond of the artist Corita Kent who, as an IHM nun, helps shake up the art world as well as the Church during those days after Vatican II.

As a Los Angeles artist, Sister Mary Corita became nationally and internationally known for her vibrant serigraphs. Much like Andy Warhol, Corita had an enlightened eye for public art and commercial advertising.

During the 1970s and the Vietnam War era, her artworks challenged — and helped us to see how the gospel values of peace and justice must be our collective work.

Of her many artworks, there is one particular piece that I’m most fond of. Mainly because many long years ago, I purchased a signed copy of the lithograph at an exhibition in New York City. My one example of impulse buying paid off, for what might have been at most $150, is now worth several thousand.

Six feet by six feet square, this poster contains a black and white photograph of a single French marigold, and to the right bold stripes of color – gold, reds and light blues.

In bold black lettering, there is a quote for the 18th-century English scientist and writer, Sir Thomas Browne. It reads: “We carry within us the wonders we seek without us.”

Corita Kent was no wallflower, herself. But someone who boldly recognized the artist within each of us, and how we must harness those spiritual forces and bring them forward as an integral part of God’s creatives in the world. For more on Corita Kent, go to: https://corita.org/

For each person, God shows no partiality. In you and most especially in young people, we see signs of your epiphanies and growth.

We have been privileged so much so that each of us must look out for those people who need that spark of encouragement to get them to their next stage of growth.

Today’s gospel reminds us that Jesus, too, is growing in his understanding of what his life means for others — as he feeds, heals, and rescues people’s lives. His vision is not just a rebuilding of Israel rather a re-imagining of our life in God.

The core message is an epiphany — that the more you love, the more you hope in him and in service you give to those in need — the more you know God.

“We carry within us the wonders we seek without us.” So make the wonder! And in this, you may hear an echo, however faint, of God’s voice in you, saying: “You are my beloved son or daughter; with you, I am well pleased.”

Rosary Chapel, Santa Catalina School, Monterey, CA

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