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Bishop's Homily for the Solemnity of the Baptism of the Lord

January 10, 2021

[Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace]

You will become God.  You will become divine.

You might think of what I just said as blasphemy or as some kind of New-Age thinking.  But in the last days of Advent and the days of the Christmas season as I read the Office of Readings, the official Liturgy of the Hours of our Church, I was amazed at how many of the revered Church Fathers put forth this notion.  It is even affirmed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  So how are we to understand this concept that we sinful human beings are to become divine?  I think understanding this great gift of God is the key to our repentance from sin and our transformation from mere human beings to divine beings united with the One true and living God.

A little over a month ago we celebrated the feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary.  This is an amazing concept.  Since the sin of Adam and Eve, every human being has been subject to original sin, but Mary was the first exception.  Her very soul was infused with divinity, with God’s own life and love, not through any merits of her own but by a sheer gift of God to prepare her to be the mother of his Son.  Then, of course, Jesus was free from original sin, but clearly he was God as well as a human being.  But what about us?  Do we not believe that Baptism frees us from original sin?  That is the teaching of our Church.  Yet, unfortunately, we forget.  We do not contemplate this incredible gift we have been given, and so we act as if we are not freed from sin.  We often act as if Jesus had not come to save us from our sins, because instead of clinging to Jesus and his saving love, we still cling to what is not divine.

Can you imagine what the world would be like if everyone realized the divine life that has been bestowed upon them?  If every baptized person remained true to the promises made at Baptism – not just the promises we make to renounce Satan and to believe in the Triune God, but the promises God makes to us to free us from original sin?  We would more clearly see the divinity in ourselves and others and would not want to demonize our own actions or our attitudes toward others.  We would understand that God is a Trinity, a perfect community of love, revealed today as the Son of God is acclaimed as beloved by the voice of the Father as the Holy Spirit alights on him like a dove; and we would live more fully as a community of love with all our brothers and sisters.  We would know that the most effective way to convert ourselves or others from sin is not to shine dark thoughts on them but to shine God’s light of love on them.  Real change comes when we feel loved, more than from any other kind of motivation.

Today’s feast of the Baptism of the Lord is more amazing that we can imagine, but we are called to soak ourselves in its amazement.  The sinless one receives a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins to remind us that he is not afraid to be among us sinners, nor is he repulsed by us.  He immerses himself totally in our lives so that we will know how much we are loved, so that we can forget about darkness and remember only the light that comes from God.  His baptism is Jesus’s way of saying to us that it is time to wash away the deception of the ancient serpent, and to believe that we were created in the image and likeness of God himself.  After all, wasn’t the original sin forgetting about this high destiny, and being deceived to think that something was lacking to us; that unless we ate some fruit or did some other particular thing we would never be like God?  The truth of the matter is that Adam and Eve did not need to eat the fruit of any tree to be like God, since they were made in his image and likeness.  But they were tempted to forget, and so sin came into the world.

Perhaps what I have been saying may sound like pious theological speculation when we need to solve real-world problems like a pandemic, political unrest, violence, and increasing homelessness.  But I would submit we will never be able to solve any of these problems until we first realize who we truly are; that we are so loved by God that he became one of us, so that we could all become one with him.  He immersed himself in our humanity so that the blindness can be washed away from our eyes and we can see more clearly that God has chosen to soak us in his divinity.  Only by realizing this will we be able to perform miracles that are simply not possible for mere human beings, but that are more than possible for those with whom God shares his very divinity.