Homily for the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord Year C.
Theme: Prepare to meet the Lord
By: Christ in the Desert Monastery
My sisters and brothers in Christ,
The mystery of the Baptism of the Lord– with His Epiphany–are at the heart of our faith. These mysteries are less known in the Western Church than the mysteries of Christmas and Easter. In almost every way, the mysteries of the Epiphany and the Baptism are the same as the mystery of Christmas, the Nativity of the Lord. Christmas has enormous emotional overtones throughout the world and because of that, very often the understanding of preparation is lacking.
The first reading today, from the Prophet Isaiah, explains what it means to be prepared to meet the Lord: “A voice cries out: In the desert prepare the way of the Lord! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!” Who better would understand the gravity of this eventuality than we monks here at Monastery of Christ in the Desert. Our monastery is located in a remote place. One must take a 13-mile dirt road off the highway to reach the church. The road is mountainous, windy with multiple turns and dips—this is not written to discourage anyone from paying us a visit. So, when the prophet proclaims: “Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill shall be made low; the rugged land shall be made a plain, the rough country, a broad valley”, we monks know what an awesome and awe-inspiring feat that would be! This is extreme preparation discernable in the physical world. But, what about our interior lives?
The second reading, from the Letter to Titus, explains even further what this preparation entails: “The grace of God has appeared, saving all and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age, as we await the blessed hope, the appearance of the glory of our great God and savior Jesus Christ.” St. John Chrysostom challenges us, too, when he spurs Christians: “We who are disciples of Christ claim that our purpose on earth is to lay up treasures in heaven. But our actions often contradict our words. Many Christians build for themselves fine houses, lay out splendid gardens, construct bathhouses, and buy fields. It is small wonder, then, that many non-believers refuse to believe what we say. ‘If their eyes are set on mansions in heaven,’ they ask, ‘why are they building mansions on earth? If they put their words into practice, they would give away their riches and live in simple huts.’ ” This may be easier for monks, but those living in the world approaching more revelry and excess in the upcoming days of a holiday season, it is a formidable challenge.
From Luke’s Gospel reading, people flocked to John the Baptist to seek a way to be faithful to God, or, in other words, to prepare to receive Him. There are Old Testament precedents of men and women preparing to receive a king, notwithstanding Jesus. Think of the preparation of Esther. “Now when the turn of each young lady came to go in to King Ahasuerus, after the end of her twelve months under the regulations for the women–for the days of their beautification were completed as follows: six months with oil of myrrh and six months with spices and the cosmetics for women …She would not again go in to the king unless the king delighted in her and she was summoned by name…And Esther found favor in the eyes of all who saw her” (Es 2:12-15). A person can do a great deal of changing in 12 hours, let alone a year and a half!
We are invited to believe in Jesus as the one, unique and only God. And He has come to save us. If we are baptized in Him, let us share His mercy and walk with faith. Let us steadfastly order our lives to be better able to receive His mercy. For if you desire to receive the Lord, then be prepared to change.