Fr. Brian Zumbrum’s homilies and reflections are posted weekly at Leaven in the World. To see the archive of all his posts, just click here: Salesian Sermons
The Baptism of the Lord | January 10/11, 2015
PROTIP: Before reading on, be sure to take a look at the readings here. This homily is based on the first and Gospel readings.
It was my junior year in college and I had gotten really involved in work for social justice.
Like any naïve, idealist college student, I was off to change the world.
Starting with the youth of the Allentown school system.
I signed up to do after-school tutoring with elementary school students to help provide them with some critical support, both academically and socially.
I remember I was assigned to this same little boy each week and needless to say it was not going well.
I spent most of our periods chasing him around the building, coaxing him out from underneath tables, or begging him to at least answer one problem.
It all seemed hopeless.
Then one day, he looked up at me and said “Ohana”. I stared down at him and shook my head.
“We’re working on math my man, not spelling.”
He emphatically shook his head and repeated the word. Now, I was just plain confused.
“What are you trying to tell me?”
He stated it for the third time, “Ohana”. It means family. Where no one gets left behind.
I was dumbstruck.
What was this kid talking about? I hadn’t actually done anything. We never actually finished his homework. I felt like we had just been wasting time. How in the heck could he consider me family?
With tears in my eyes, I asked . . .”Are we family?”
He just smiled and gave me a huge hug.
I couldn’t help but think about that little boy after hearing our readings for today on the Baptism of the Lord.
For these readings really hit at the core of our relationship with God.
If we carefully read the Gospel from today, we notice a pretty key feature that is often overlooked or underplayed.
God speaks those words that have echoed down through the centuries.
You are my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.
And yet, Jesus has not done anything yet.
He has not begun his public ministry. He has not started healing or teaching, preaching or expelling demons.
He hasn’t done anything that would seem to warrant God’s pleasure.
It seems that God chose Jesus for who he was, not for anything he had done.
And in turn, God also chose each of us, at our baptism, because of who we are, not because of what we have done.
God chose us long before our accomplishments or our accolades.
God chose us before we earned the title or the job that now defines us.
God chose us before we had a checking account to fill or a Facebook to belong to.
And in choosing us to be adopted daughters and sons of his, we too became a family.
A family in which no one gets left behind.
No matter what questions we may have or doubts we may face.
No matter how many times we fall
No matter how dark the world may seem.
God still chooses us
And like Christ, empowers us to then go out and live as one who is chosen, as one who is beloved.
To be light to someone’s darkness.
To be healing to someone’s broken heart or fractured soul.
To be comfort to someone’s sorrow
To be freedom to those in chains
To be faith to those in doubt
To be wisdom to those in confusion
To be strength to those who are weighed down by all life’s crosses.
No my friends, we may not have earned the right to belong to God’s family.
But we do belong and God has promised us that no one gets left behind. Who could ask for a better, final Christmas gift? May God be Praised.