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The Baptism of our Lord

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Once in a while, I am invited to a parish to speak to the students. When I arrive, they are sitting classroom style. I kind of know what they are thinking: “Here is the priest and he is going to tell us to be good.” To get the kids to take me seriously, I get my wallet out and pull out a twenty-dollar bill. It has to be brand new so when I give it a flick it has a nice snap. You should see those eyes looking at the money in my hand. Next I ask, “Who wants it?” Naturally everyone raises their hands. I always pick someone from the back of the room because I need that time it takes for them to walk to the front. Before they come up I drop it on the ground and step on it, rubbing my both feet on the bill making sure that whatever is on the bottom of my shoes is on that twenty dollars. I pick up the money and say: “It is dirty; do you still want it?” I get a “Yes.” Then I wrinkle it up into a small ball and say, “It is now dirty and wrinkly; do you still want it? I get another predictable “Yes.” I then rub it under both my armpits. This time I even get sound effects from the young audience. “Now it’s dirty, wrinkly, and stinky; do you still want it?” The kid always takes it. Why? Despite the fact that it may be dirty, wrinkly and smelly, it is still twenty bucks.

Here is my lesson: Even though we are dirty, old and smelly sinners, God still wants us. Why? We are still valuable to Him.

Every year my family goes on a short vacation in the woods of Maine. The camp is located in “Timberland” where they harvest trees for lumber. All the trees are tall and straight and about the same size. As we drive to the camp, there is tree right in the middle of the dirt road. The road has to curve around the tree. It has a huge trunk and a large, gnarling knot. Its branches are twisted and resemble a giant bonsai. One morning, my father and I were looking at it and my father said, “Do you know why that tree is the prettiest and oldest tree in the forest?” I said, “Why?” “Because it is useless. If it were straight and had less knots it would have been hacked down long ago and used for tables and chairs. So because it is useless, it is the most beautiful tree in the forest.”

This got me thinking. Before Jesus went out and proclaimed the Gospel and served the needy, he went to the Jordan River to be baptized. After He was baptized, the divine drama unfolds: the heavens split open, the Holy Spirit descends as a dove on Jesus, and a thunderous voice comes from the open heavens and say, “This is My beloved Son.”

This is my question. What did Jesus do to become a “beloved Son”? Because He went into the desert for forty-days without food and water and resisted the devil’s temptations? No. Because the baptism came before the desert. Was it because He preached to large crowds? No. Because it didn’t happen yet. Was it because Jesus cured those born with blindness”? No. Because it didn’t happen yet. Was it because He suffered and died to save us? No. Because it didn’t happen yet. Then what did Jesus do to become a beloved disciple. Nothing. He was the Son.

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