Christ Who Wades Into Our Rivers

The Baptism of the Lord | January 12, 2020

See today’s readings here. This homily focuses on the Gospel reading. The archive of all of Fr. Brian’s homilies can be found here: Salesian Sermons


This scene from the Gospel today has always fascinated my imagination.

I always pictured this crystal clear river, water bouncing over rocks and sending delightful sprays into the air.

I would see the sun shining through the clouds, striking Jesus and John as they waded into the depths.

    I would envision the dove gliding down in lazy circles as the words boomed over the        assembled crowds.  This is my beloved son.

So when I was given the opportunity to visit the River Jordan, I was ecstatic.  Here was the moment I had been waiting for.

And I gotta tell you, I was kinda disappointed.

For the River Jordan was nothing like I imagined.

It was more like a lazy creek. Slimy with algae. And honestly, it smelled.

I barely touched the water.  Because it was grossing me out.

And suddenly I could not imagine anyone wanting to wade into that mess.

But the more I thought about it, maybe that is the whole point of this feast that we celebrate.

    Which is that Christ did exactly what I didn’t expect.

He waded into the River and transformed it into this instrument of healing. Of reconciliation. Of new birth.

He waded into this world as it is and transformed it into what it was always destined to be.

And that gives me hope.

Because I must be honest.

I think I feel like that River Jordan more often than I would ever like to admit.

    See I have spent my whole life learning how to be the River Jordan of my fantasies.

        To keep up the appearance that I have it all together.

That I am in control.

        That I’m perfect.

But I know these are all lies.  Lies that I tell myself because facing the reality of who I actually am is much more uncomfortable.  Like sticking my hand into the slimy coating of a lazy stream.

    Accepting the fact that I am vain and proud.

    Accepting the fact that I worry too much about people liking me.

Accepting the fact that I never feel enough. That I too often feel like a failure. That I am ruthless in my self-critique.

Accepting the fact that I too often feel like a hypocrite.  Preaching what I struggle to practice.  

And yet, this feast is the reminder to me that Christ wades into my life as it is.  And declares the same announcement that was proclaimed 2000 years ago.

You are my beloved son.  

My friends, I am convinced that this is the crux of this entire feast.

Which is that Christ is constantly choosing to wade into our rivers, regardless of their appearance. Regardless if they feel they have run dry. Regardless if they are polluted or overgrown or grimy.

I look around this room and know that each of us has things that we struggle to accept about ourselves.

    We know we are lazy or judgemental or bitter.

    We can be cynical or prone to gossip.  We feel like a burden.  

    We feel drained and emptied.  We feel like we screwed up.

    We can feel dumb or selfish or shattered.

None of us is quite the beautiful Jordan that we envision.

But none of that matters.

    For Christ, this day, rolls up his tunic and wades into our rivers.  Looks us in the eye and        declares without hesitation.

        You are my beloved daughter.

        Your are my beloved son.

        You are beautiful.  You are smart. You are faithful.

        You are talented.  You are blessed. You are such a gift.

        You are the one that I love.

We couldn’t ask for a better gift as we conclude our Christmas season.

May God be Praised.

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