This homily is based on Matthew 3:13-17 on the Feast of the Baptism of our Lord.
John the Baptist, as well as his disciples, must have been bewildered by Jesus’ request for baptism. “Baptize him?”
But John saw that Jesus was serious about his request, and though he did not understand, he decided to trust Jesus, going ahead to baptize him even if he knew that between the two of them, it should be him getting baptized by Jesus.
All his life he had expected Jesus. We don’t know how many times they met, but this moment, when he was to introduce Jesus just at the beginning of Jesus’ Public Ministry, to give way to him, “to decrease as Jesus would increase”–John the Baptist had waited for this moment all his life.
But the way Jesus began his public ministry was certainly not what John the Baptist had expected: He had expected the Messiah to begin his mission with majesty, immediately striking awe and fear in the hearts of their enemies.
Instead he was met by a humble Messiah, one who chose to identify with sinners by receiving baptism from him. John the Baptist knew better than to resist revising his expectations!
This was a Messiah who wanted to identify with us sinners and to be close to us. More, he was a Messiah who opted to fall in line, and wait for his turn, with not a trace of any sense of self-entitlement.
Praying over this passage today, I was struck by this entirely new face of God: A God who falls in line. A God who is patient and humble.
When you think about it, that is exactly what the Incarnation tells us about God. Ours is a God who took refused to take any shortcut in his mission to save us. He didn’t just appear on the face of the earth, a full-grown adult, ready for work! He preferred to go through the entire slow and tedious process of being human, starting with infancy.
And such is the grace that the Lord may be offering us today: The graces of humility and patience.
Most people I know have very clear expectations about God. They want their God to be all-powerful, period, a little bit like a superhero from the Marvel universe. But the Incarnation is all about a God who, though all-powerful, chooses to fall in line, to be humble and patient.
In today’s culture, humility and patience are not rewarded. Social media promotes a kind of narcissism that we can all fall into if we are not careful. Technology makes us expect things to be fast and instant.
Today’s Baptism of the Lord invites us to examine ourselves. Do we need to be more humble and more patient, so that like the Lord, we are willing to fall in line?