I want us to spend a few moments meditating and mulling over why Jesus was baptized. Obviously, he had no sin of which to repent. So why be baptized by his cousin John?  

We know from the surrounding scriptures that John’s baptism was just that – a baptism of repentance – calling the Jewish people out on their self-righteousness, their disregard for the poor and the lowly, and to remind the poor that there was something better for them and it was here now.

Jesus, by being baptized and by later commissioning the disciples to baptize showed forth the life of the Trinity.  But more than that, Jesus changed baptism. Yes, it was still for the remission of sins and for repentance, but it now also was a dying to oneself to live for God.

When Jesus went into the water, he was putting aside the desires and wants of his human nature, he was dying to self.  Coming out of the water, he now lived for God and God’s will.

That is what our baptism is today.  We were baptized to erase our sin. But we were also saying that “yes, I will die to self, so I can live for God.” 

We preach a lot about what this means – taking care of the poor, the homeless, the downtrodden, the immigrant.

The prophet Isaiah in our first reading says, “a bruised reed he shall not break, and a smoldering wick he shall not quench, until he establishes justice on the earth.” 

We are that bruised reed, we are that smoldering wick.  We are given the opportunity to heal and to be reignited by God’s unconditional love.

But Isaiah also tells us what this dying to self and living for God entails: “I formed you and set you…a light for the nations, to open the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.” 

We, by our baptism, have said that, “yes, I will be a light in the darkness.  I will do all I can to open the eyes of the blind to the love of God; I will work tirelessly to bring people freedom from their sins, and shine the light of God’s love into the darkest of hearts. And I will work for social justice for every person.”

This is what our baptism means.  This is why Jesus was baptized. To show us the way that we should follow. And having been shown the way, to live it.

There is no shortage of people that need to hear the Good News. But even more importantly – they need to be shown the Good News. This we do by living the Gospel of peace, the Gospel of love, the Gospel of hope.

 

I’ve talked before about my Grandmother, and that she worked in the school cafeteria.  Actually, my whole family did - my grandfather was the custodian, my grandmother was over the cafeteria, and my mother worked for her.  The school was about 15 miles outside of Deming, and about 15 miles from the Mexican border – so it was out in the middle of nowhere.

The school was a k-6. A few of the kids were farm kids and pretty much didn’t do without anything.  The rest were poor. Often the only meal they had was the lunch provided by the school.  The rules they gave my grandmother were simple: She must use all the government commodities they sent out by the end of the year, and she mustn’t go over the allowed amount of food.  Other than that, she could change the menu however she needed.  So, she did.  I often think there was some creative bookkeeping done on her part, but it always balanced in the end.

There were about 200 students in the school, and she made sure there was always enough food for each child to have seconds if they wanted or needed it. Thirds – if it was a favorite like Pizza. None of the kids left hungry.

My grandmother never once bragged about what she did for them, never held it over their heads. When parents or other teachers would complement her about it, she would simply shrug and say something like, “We had extra and I didn’t want to throw it away.”

500 years ago, this year, St. Thomas of Villanova made his Religious profession – taking the vows of Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience. He reluctantly took on the office of Bishop some few years later, but refused to live the rich life of the bishops of his time. Instead, he took the money and gave to the poor, he even opened a soup kitchen of sorts and a shelter for the homeless there at his residence. And before he died, he made sure to sell the rest of his belongings and gave the money to the poor.

He understood that all that he had was nothing if it wasn’t used for the sake of others. That his love of God was hollow, if he didn’t love those around him and help them however he could.

Yet, he didn’t make a show of it. He would never announce what he was doing or mention it so listening ears would hear and spread it around. He didn’t let pride take these good works and destroy them.

In the Gospel, Jesus says, “Don’t let the left hand know what the right hand is doing. Keep your deeds of mercy secret.”  In other words, do it because it needs done, not because you want praise or reward for doing it.

We are called to do the same.  We receive freely of God’s Word and Sacrament. We receive without cost, but we receive with a condition.  “Go and do what I have done.”  Take what you have received and give it to those in need.

“I would like to give money to the poor, but I don’t have much extra and I have to pay the bills.”  That is a good and valid point.  So, what can you do?

1 – If you take your lunch to work, pack a little extra.  An extra sandwich, small bag of chips, crackers.  And on the way to or from if you see someone in need, give it to them.

2- If you are going out to the store, or shopping, or whatever reason, take some small snacks along with you – peanut butter sandwich, chips, crackers, juice boxes…something.  And again, if you see someone in need or begging, you have something to give.

          Sadly, we don’t have to go far to find someone in need.

3- Donate to a place that directly feeds the homeless.  My favorite – Rosa’s Pizza in Philadelphia.  Why, because it doesn’t cost a whole lot.  $5 gives 5 people a free slice of pizza. But there many other good places out there – do some research and find one that touches your heart.  Maybe one that helps children or families.

What is the cost of an extra sandwich or bag of chips, or snack crackers? Or the cost of a slice of pizza?  For the person that receives it – the price is dear – it means their stomach won’t be rumbling for a while. Maybe they won’t have to try to sleep on an empty stomach.

We receive freely – it’s time we begin to give freely.