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The Inauguration Day That Changed Our Lives

Rev. Paul V. Redmond
Professor Emeritus
Mount St. Mary's University

(01-11-09) With hearts flamed by prayer and fanned by the deep desire that our hopes will be realized you and I are drawing ever nearer to the Inauguration Day of President-Elect Barack Hussein Obama---the day when he will publicly assume the office of President of the United States and begin his awesome, demanding service. We regularly pray for him that the Lord will bless him in meeting the awesome challenges that are ahead.

Today we look back at another Inauguration Day, when a young maņ Jesus of Nazareth was baptized. It is his story which has become our story. It is the mystery of his suffering and total surrender to his Father, the Lord Adonai, which has become the mystery of our suffering and surrender to that same Father.

The feast of the Baptism of Jesus reminds us of our own baptism. Father Raymond Brown, outstanding scripture scholar, once said: "The day a person is baptized is more important than the day when a person is ordained priest and/or bishop. These other consecrations come from and depend on the grace that begins to grow in a believer at the time of his/her baptism." Friends, focus with me now on the baptism of Jesus.

Saint Mark, whose version of the "Good News of Jesus Christ" will guide us regularly on Sundays throughout this year or worship, opens his gospel with a gripping account of the baptism of Jesus. John the Baptist had probably served as a mentor for Jesus-perhaps as one who guided Jesus with regard to developing his own vision of the "coming kingdom".

Father Daniel Harrington contrasts John and Jesus: John in his own preaching stresses the future coming of God's kingdom. Jesus, on the other hand, in his teaching in the parables, will stresses the here-and-now dimensions of God's kingdom. John had preached moral renewal as a way to get ready for God's judgment. Jesus invited sinners to throw themselves on the grace and mercy of God in his love for them.

John the Baptism preached "a baptism for the remission of sins." It is hard for you and me to understand why Jesus who is without sin, asked John for such a baptism. It may well be that Jesus was aware of a sinful world in need of God's pardon and thus requested baptism from John.

What stands out in the baptism of Jesus is that this is a "shining moment" in his life. Mark uses figurative language in writing that for Jesus "the heavens were torn open." This may be Mark's way of trying to say that there was no separation between God the Father and Jesus. In writing that Jesus saw the "Spirit, like a dove, descending upon himself" Mark points to the "last days"-the "end-times" - that had arrived in Jesus. Through the Spirit Jesus was inaugurating a new Israel that would eventually embrace all the peoples of the earth. Baptized with the Holy Spirit at the beginning of his ministry Jesus is empowered to preach and work by that same Spirit. In describing Jesus as the "beloved Son" Mark signals the special role that Jesus as God's "unique, beloved Son" was to have in God's holy planů. The Son who would be sacrificed to save a sinful world. May you and I become increasingly aware of the great dignity and responsibility we have as those baptized "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."

Just as the baptism of Jesus was the starting point for his public ministry, so does our baptism prepare you and me for service to witness the light of Jesus to others. It is through the inaugural graces of our Christian baptism that you and I somehow grasp the presence of God and grow in living for the One who in his love for us is closer to us than we are to ourselves. Jesus' "unshakeable knowledge" that God loves him completely energizes him in doing good (Acts 10:38). At rare moments in our lives, friends, that we become aware of such "shining moments"-hopefully, "transforming moments" that quicken our energy to imitate Jesus, our Brother and our Lord.

As "baptized believers" you and I are called to direct others to Jesus and to God in Jesus by what we say and by what we do. May we freely and frequently resolve to embrace that mission to draw others into the life of Jesus. You and I received the power to do so on our "Inauguration Day"-the day of our baptism.

Baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirits, yours is an awesome dignity and responsibility. As the baptized you have the priestly power to sanctify your children, spouses, significant others. . . probably more by what you do than by what you say. It is important, Friends, to ask the Lord to remind you of this power and to fan the embers that are decidedly present.

You are a holy people, a priestly people. Through your baptism you have the powerful grace to grasp the presence of the God of Jesus Christ and live in it. You will find joy where many think joy cannot be found. You will find renewed meaning and purpose in living at God's hand. . . a hand of love ever present for you.

My prayer is that you may realize that in seeking Jesus, who is the Face of God, you may hear his Father say to each you in your uniqueness. "You are my beloved daughter, my beloved son. I am delighted in you." May you fall in love-irrevocably in love - with God. . . .a love that neither you nor God can revoke. And pray for me that I may do the same.

Read other homilies by Father Paul