The Baptism of the Lord | January 9/10, 2015
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
PROTIP: Before reading on, be sure to take a look at the Sunday readings here. This homily focuses on the Gospel reading.
A few years ago, I was asked if I would plan a retreat for the entire senior class of Fr. Judge High School
Completely naïve, I said yes.
I set about arranging all of the different pieces and I quickly learned that coordinating a retreat for 250 students is a bit more than I bargained for. This lesson was especially evident after I decided to invite each parent in the senior class to write their son a personal letter that would be given to them. Weeks after that initial request, I was still tracking down wayward parents to ensure that I had a letter for every kid.
The night before the retreat I was on the phone with a father who was on business in Pittsburgh. As I explained the project for the umpteenth time, he paused and said . . . Do you think my son really wants a letter from me. Exasperated, I remember going . . . Sir, I believe that EVERY kid needs to hear from their father. Could you please just write the letter? The father said sure and faxed it to me later that evening.
The next morning, I began the process of distributing the letters and I got to Dan, whose father I had spoken with the night before. He looked at me and said . . . I bet you don’t have a letter for me.
I smirked and handed him the letter.
It was the first time that Dan was silent in the entire year that I had him for homeroom.
He began to read the letter and I watched as tears slowly rolled down his cheeks. After he was finished, he came up to me and said, “I never knew how much he loved me. We get to keep these right Mr. Zumbrum?”
A little teary-eyed myself, I said, “Of course. We all need a reminder every once in a while of just how deeply we are loved.”
I couldn’t help but think of that encounter after reflecting on this Gospel once again on this the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.
For in those closing lines of the text, we hear Jesus receiving his own letter from his father.
A letter than would stay with him through all of the trials and tribulations of his public ministry. A letter that would remind him of the basic fact that he was loved, even when he found himself in situations in which he was misunderstood or threatened, situations in which he was frustrated, exhausted, or lonely, situations in which he was abandoned and condemned.
It was this voice, this letter that Jesus chose to cling to even in the midst of so many competing voices and narratives that aimed to break him, silence him, or eliminate him.
And it is this same voice that continues to speak to each of us. This same letter that is written to each of us.
For in our own baptism, we too have received this love letter from our God.
This love letter that reminds us of these same truths . . .
That you are a beloved daughter, a beloved son of God.
That you were created for a unique purpose that NO ONE else can achieve.
That God delights in you.
That God laughs when you are laughing, weeps when you are weeping, and walks beside you on the path that lies before you.
And yet, it can be so difficult to stay focused on these truths amidst the barrage of negative voices that clamor for our attention each and every day.
The voices from within and without that deny what God has proclaimed . . .
The voices that state that we are not good enough.
That we are ugly, dirty, broken.
That we have messed up. That we are a failure.
That there is nothing special about us.
That we are utterly alone, cast off, abandoned.
This is why we need this feast each year. For we too need to hear from our Father, our Heavenly Father. Whose love never fails us.
And once we have basked in that love. When we have received once again that love letter.
We must then go forth to become God’s love letter to the world.
Reminding our spouse and children how much we love them.
Reminding our siblings, our parents how much we love them.
Reminding our friends, our co-workers how much we love them.
Reminding our students, our teachers, our mentors, our athletes, our coaches how much we love them.
In our words and in our deeds.
In our texts, our e-mails, our Facebook posts, our phone calls, our quiet conversations shared in the stillness of the night and our hurried goodbyes while racing out the door. In our hugs, our kisses, our fist bumps and our Christmas cards. In the little notes we leave in lunch bags and briefcases, in the notes we tapes to monitor screens and refrigerator doors.
And if we do so, we too will make God’s love incarnate. And the miracle of Christmas will truly continue all year long.
May God be Praised.