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Bishop's Homily for the Baptism of the Lord

January 13, 2019

[Sacred Heart Church, Punahou (Installation of Pastor); St. Stephen Diocesan Center, Kaneohe (Institution of Lectors for Deacon Formation Class)  Holy Spirit Parish/Newman Center, Manoa (Installation of Pastor)]

[Isaiah 40:1-5,9-11; Titus 2:11-14, 3:4-7; Luke 3:15-16,21-23]

 When I was growing up and our family went out to dinner, sometimes I would order teriyaki steak. I was usually disappointed, however, because most restaurants simply took a steak and poured some teriyaki sauce on it. I was accustomed to the way my mother made it at home. She marinated the meat in the teriyaki sauce for at least 24 hours, so that the meat was soaked, saturated, permeated – we might say “baptized” – in the sauce, so that every fiber oozed teriyaki. This immersion made a huge difference in the taste of the steak.

Today we see Jesus, the Son of God, the sinless one, voluntarily immersing himself in the same waters that John used to wash away the sins of the people. Symbolically, those waters were polluted with those sins that people had left behind, and Jesus takes them all upon himself as he begins his mission of saving us from our sins. He was the Lamb of God, the sacrificial scapegoat who took upon himself the sins of all the world, so that wandering out into the wilderness of death, he could set us free into eternal life. He was not satisfied with simply basting himself outwardly with what was good about humanity, but he instead was baptized, soaked, and saturated with human frailty, so that he could be a real Savior who would ultimately be able to soak us in God’s life and love, to saturate us with the fire of the Holy Spirit that burns away all sin and makes us the delectable offering God wants us to be. There was the great Epiphany from heaven, in which the Father and the Holy Spirit declared to Jesus, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” He did this so that if we allow ourselves to be soaked in Jesus, we will ultimately hear those same saving words: “You are my beloved son or daughter; with you I am well pleased.” 

But we also have to allow ourselves to be immersed, soaked, baptized into Jesus’ love, so that in his name we can saturate the whole world with his love. Sometimes it is too easy for us just to allow ourselves to be basted with that love on the surface, without allowing it the time to penetrate deeply within us. 

When we look at marriage and family life, we know how important they are. They allow us to find the true and committed love we all seek, even when there are difficulties and hardships to meet. We would think it odd for someone to say, “I am somewhat married,’ or “I am partially married;” yet we often act as is marriage is something to put on the surface of our lives to give it a good flavor, rather than something that is meant to saturate us in the love that is God himself.  

And so we have to ask if we live marriage and family life only on the surface, as if we are people who like each other living in the same house, while not allowing ourselves to be saturated by our spouse or our other family members. This, of course, takes effort and time, and when we meet obstacles we can easily give up and settle for superficial love; but the Lord, who plunged fully into his life and mission, challenges us to immerse ourselves fully in the give and take, the hurt and forgiveness, and the daily saturation in love for one another. 

If we look at how we live our faith, is it something we just baste ourselves with on Sunday or maybe a few other times during the week; or do we let it permeate our work, our play, our relationships, and our involvement with the body politic? Do we simply baste ourselves with an 

assent to faith in Jesus Christ, while allowing selfishness or ideologies contrary to the Gospel to really soak into our souls? Are we marinating ourselves more in prayer or in pornography? More in grudges and gossip, or more in forgiveness and affirmation of others? Are we allowing ourselves to soak up the lies of the world that life is only valuable if I want it to be; or do we immerse ourselves in the sacrifices it takes to affirm all life as sacred, from the moment of conception until natural death? Are we satisfied with simply basting our culture by expressing our opinions about the values that come to us in the Word of God while not doing much more about them; or are we so immersed in that Word that we sacrifice ourselves to do the hard work of leveling the mountains of human arrogance and filling up the valleys of human apathy toward the sufferings of others? 

The little babe of Bethlehem, whom we have celebrated this Christmas season, was not satisfied with covering himself with our humanity as if he cared about us, but instead immersed himself in it so fully that we would not be afraid to plunge in ourselves, to drown sin in ourselves and in the world in which we live, and to be the stars that guide others to taste and see not just water made wine, but bread and wine made into the Body and Blood of the Lamb of God, the beloved One, who soaked himself in our humanity so that we could be marinated and baptized fully into his divinity.