1184 Bishop St, Honolulu, HI 96813
Phone: (808) 585-3300 Fax: (808) 521-8428
Roman Catholics

Roman Catholic Church in the state of hawaii

Diocese of Honolulu

Witness to Jesus

About us

About us

Help me find...

Bishop's Homily for the Baptism of the Lord

She is all in! He was completely absorbed by it!

By Bishop Larry Silva
January 09, 2022

[Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace, Honolulu]

She is all in!  He was completely absorbed by it!  She was drowning in self-pity.  He is fully immersed in his work.  These are expressions we often use to describe when a person is totally absorbed by something, whether good or bad.  They imply total and complete commitment to some work, object or attitude.  They may be a bit of an exaggeration, but they express a reality that someone is more than peripherally involved.

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.  John the Baptist was performing a ritual cleansing of people who truly wanted to repent of their sins, change their lives, and set themselves on a different course.  So he immersed them in the waters of the Jordan.  (It is no coincidence that this was the very river the people of Israel crossed to enter the Promised Land after wandering forty years in the desert.)  Those who went to John knew they were absorbed in destructive and toxic behavior, and they wanted to immerse themselves in fidelity to the covenant with God.

Along comes Jesus, and John knew very well who he was and that he was sinless, completely steeped in love because he is God, who is love.  He did not need any cleansing or repentance for himself, but because of his love for sinful humanity, whose lot he had chosen to share completely, he offered himself to be cleansed so that all of us could be cleansed through him.  Just as in one man, Adam, all died, so in one man, Jesus Christ, all come to life and are immersed in the love of God.

Wonderful!  Yet here we are still immersed in a pandemic, soaked in conflicts among ourselves, plunged into a world where many care more about what they want to be true than what is actually true.  We may try to shake it off from time to time, but we constantly find ourselves immersed in sin.  This is precisely why it is so important for us to celebrate this feast of the Baptism of the Lord each year.  We are reminded that our conversion, our crossing from aimless wandering to the promised land, is not something we can accomplish on our own.  Our memories are too short to recall all the wonders that God had done for us, so we fall back into the mire and eventually find ourselves drowning in it.  But we have a Savior!  He is someone who is not afraid or ashamed to get down and dirty with us, so that through his immersion in repentance we can be inspired and empowered to go along with him.  He not only immersed himself in the transforming waters of the Jordan, but he soaked in his own blood on the cross so that he could transform our hopeless suffering and our dank darkness into hope and light.  We celebrate this feast to remind ourselves that because he immersed himself in the waters of change and conversion, we need not be afraid to do so ourselves.  He invites us into the treacherous waters of repentance so that we can shine like stars to lead others to him, so that we can be like new wine that brings joy to the world.

On a day most of us do not remember, we were baptized in the saving waters.  We may not think of that day very often, but it would do us good to reflect on the miracle that happened that day.  We were immersed so deeply into God’s love that he even poured out his holy name on us, baptizing us in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  We were designated as God’s sons and daughters in whom he is well pleased.  We were saturated in the grace that is the greatest solvent of sin.  We were given a white garment to keep clean and bright and a light to shine upon a world in darkness.  We were embraced so fully by God’s love that we became members of the Body of Christ himself.

Wouldn’t the world – and our own lives – be very different if we only remembered every day the unbelievable miracle that God worked upon us in our Baptism?  Then we would be totally immersed in the world to transform its suffering into joy, to dispel its darkness with light, and to bathe it completely with the love that is God himself.  As members of the Body of Christ, aware of who we truly are, we would, with Jesus himself, immerse ourselves into a sinful world to break open to it heaven itself.