Homily for the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord Year A
Theme: “When Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’” (Matthew 3:16-17)
By: Fr. Robert deLeon, CSC
Homily for Sunday January 12 2020
“In ancient Greece, Socrates was widely lauded for his wisdom. One day the great philosopher came upon an acquaintance who ran up to him excitedly and said, ‘Socrates, do you know what I just heard about one of your students?’ Socrates replied, ‘Wait a moment. Before you tell me, I’d like you to pass a little test. It’s called the Test of Three.’
“Socrates continued, ‘Before you talk to me about my student, let’s take a moment to test what you’re going to say. The first test is TRUTH. Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is true?’ The man said, ‘No. Actually, I just heard about it.’
“‘Alright,’ said Socrates, ‘so you don’t really know if it’s true or not. Now let’s try the second test, the test of GOODNESS. Is what you are about to tell me about my student something good?’ Replied the other, ‘No, on the contrary.’
“‘So,’ Socrates continued, ‘you want to tell me something bad about him even though you’re not certain it’s true?’ The man shrugged, a little embarrassed. Socrates continued. ‘You may still pass though, because there is a third test—the filter of USEFULNESS. Is what you want to tell me about my student going to be useful to me?’ The man said, ‘No, not really.’
“‘Well,’ concluded Socrates, ‘if what you want to tell me is neither true nor good nor even useful, why tell it to me at all?’” (Original source unknown)
Socrates, it seems, might well have been speaking directly to our age with his admonishment to abstain from the wicked pleasure of malicious gossip. He might certainly have been addressing the publishers of cheap tabloids and desperate political figures of our day who freely use such ploys to discredit others. In truth, though, I believe Socrates was addressing a much wider audience—humankind across all ages. What solace it can give us mortal creatures to point out the faults of others! How much better might we feel—at least for a moment—when we can imagine ourselves a cut above our neighbor!
And though the telling of a tall tale be pleasurable—especially when the listener is as excited to hear as we are to speak—we often find ourselves unquiet in the aftermath. Indeed, gossiping can provide a quick high but at a steep expense.
Why speak of such a dreary topic as the Christmas season comes to an end? It’s because the gospel passage we hear today on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord invites us to see ourselves and others with the very eyes of God. Rather than judging others, something which comes so naturally to most of us, we are invited this day to something much more challenging—loving ourselves and others. Today’s gospel passage reminds us that heavenly insight has been bestowed upon us at our own baptism, and we are urged this day to use that insight, accepting every person as a brother or sister created in the image of God. St. Matthew writes, “When Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’” (Matthew 3:16-17)
Quite a challenge, to see ourselves and others as does God! Perhaps not even possible this side of heaven. But it remains an ideal for which we ought never compromise our values.
It’s been my experience from years of caring for the beaten, battered and broken that the problem is with ourselves. I mean, how many of us look into the mirror and truly dislike what we see? Sadly, I think it’s too common an experience. But this day we are challenged to let that next peek in the mirror become a glimpse of heavenly beauty as we look beyond all those things that matter so little to what is deepest within—hearts made to hold the humanity and divinity of Jesus, tabernacles more sacred than could be found in the most beautiful churches on earth.
“When Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my child, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’” (Matthew 3:16-17) That’s the Heavenly Father talking about Jesus—and also about every single one of us! It’s God loving dearly the one who stares us down as we sneak a peek into the mirror.