The Voice Is for Us

The Voice Is For Us
The Baptism of the Lord - Year C
[Is 42:1-4, 6-7 or Is 40:1-5, 9-11. Ps 29:1-2, 3-4, 3, 9-10. Acts 10:34-38 or
Ti 2:11-14; 3:4-7. Lk 3:15-16, 21-22 .]

Today we celebrate the Baptism of Jesus.
It is a powerful, and joyful, and even a transformative event!
This is Jesus’ “anointing” with the Holy Spirit and power. Empowerment for ministry.
It is, in fact, like last week, another “Epiphany” in itself!

From ancient times the baptism of Jesus was
the original theme of the Epiphany.

So, what does this word “Epiphany” mean? Quite simply, it is a Greek word meaning “a sudden appearance.”

Last week, we heard about the Magi who journeyed and who found the newborn King of the Jews. To them, who sought and searched, that was a “sudden appearance”: it was a fundamental recognition right there at the crib that the babe that they gazed on in the manger was indeed the Holy One, the Son of God!

This week, we listen in as a 30-year-old mature Jesus presents himself to be baptized in John’s baptism for the forgiveness of sins.

And what about this Baptism of John’s?
This is really important, because it tells us volumes.

There were ritual washings according to Jewish law for centuries, for many things: to purify a woman after she gave birth, to purify a man after he handled certain unclean things. These washings were to make clean again.

Never before in history were Jews—other than converts to Judaism—submitting to be baptized for the forgiveness of sins.
Why? They were the people of the promise!
Children of Abraham!
They were bound in a covenant with God!
So they didn’t really need this, they thought.

They had a kind of “corporate” idea of what sin was, an idea of sin as a nation.
But now, at this time of Jesus, the Jews as never before were becoming aware that they as individuals needed forgiveness for their individual faults.

They needed to “get right” with God on a one-to-one basis.
They needed to “Repent” —to turn again – to change their way of thinking,
their way of seeing,
of knowing,
of grasping reality!
That resonates now, as Jesus comes on the scene.

But just a quick aside: I love that Scripture verse about that from the letter to the
born of a woman, born under the law,
to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive
As proof that you are children,* God sent the spirit of
his Son into our hearts, crying out, "Abba, Father!"
So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child
then also an heir, through God."

That’s exactly what is going on here. The fullness of time has come!
That new consciousness is in the air, and Jesus at 30 years of age—the age when Rabbis are thought to be fully mature in faith to be teachers—Jesus appears on the scene and presents himself for Baptism. Epiphany!

The Jews have longed for this for ages. Nearly 800 years before Jesus’ baptism, Isaiah prays:

“Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down” (Is 63:19b).
That is exactly what God does here!
The heavens are rent! Torn open – and God comes down!

Here is the Holy Trinity: The voice of the Father,
The Son now standing in the waters of the Jordan,
The Spirit in the form of a Dove.

The Trinity suddenly manifests itself in history. Epiphany!
To proclaim Jesus’ identity and His mission!

Some scholars say that the voice of God here was
What the Jews call the bat qôl,
That is, the “daughter of a voice”—the whisper, the very echo of God to Jesus.

And yet, we, too, who hear this Gospel hear it this very day for all of us, for all time—because Luke reports it to us!
Yes – we, too, hear it!
And the voice is for you and me – the voice of God is for us!

That voice calls out to us over the centuries through the Gospel,
because we need to see who he is
We need to follow Jesus.

And so, the sinless one submits to the washing for sinners.
Jesus submits for us!
Jesus is baptized—the Greater by the lesser—the Creator by the creature. God submits to the ministry of a man! For us!
Because as always – Jesus leads!
Always, He turns to us and says, follow me…follow me!

And so we follow Jesus right through the waters of our baptism—which is not John’s baptism, which was only for the forgiveness of sins..

We follow Jesus through that Baptism that John the Baptist talked about: the Baptism with the Holy Spirit and fire!

When we go down into the waters of baptism, even symbolically by having water poured over our heads at the font,
We go down into death and we come up to walk in the newness of the promise of eternal life as new creatures!

We receive that indelible mark - that ontological change - and we become beloved sons and daughters of God—strengthened by a share in the Holy Spirit.

Baptism empowers us to use these spiritual gifts according to our own state in life as members of the Body of Christ;
to live out that call to live as a holy and priestly people.

What would you have done if you were there at that baptism – the baptism of Jesus?
Would you have heard God’s voice?

Think about that!
Throughout Scripture, God’s voice has often been mistaken for thunder or for the wind.

Listen to this from another place: from John’s Gospel as Jesus prays to the Father:
Jesus says:
"Father, glorify your name." Then a voice came from
heaven, "I have glorified it and will glorify it again."
The crowd there heard it and said it was thunder…" (Jn 12:28-30)

Now, imagine yourselves there on Jordan’s bank, when all this happens. Go there in your mind, and try to picture what it must have been like.
A man, who appears to be like any other man, comes
and whispers a few words to John the Baptist,
and John baptizes him.
When he comes up out of the water, what do you see and hear?
The Spirit, in the form of a dove?
God’s voice, saying:
“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”?

....Or is it only thunder?
Or maybe, it was the sound of the wind through the low trees and the rushes along the banks of the river?

Any maybe that bird flying by – maybe it was just a coincidence?

Well, that manifestation, and our failure to think about it, and our failure to act on it…
Is part of our hardness of heart.

God doesn’t call to us only at our Baptism –
He calls to each and every one of us
because of our Baptism!
He calls over and over again to us!

He calls through the Scriptures at the Table of the word.
He calls to us when we receive His sacred body and blood from the Table of the Sacrifice.

He calls to us in the day, and in the silence of the night.
He calls to us especially when we reach, and we yearn, and we moan, and we struggle… and when we ache for Him.
He calls to us.

That voice is for us—for our sakes!

An Epiphany—a sudden appearance—is not an Epiphany unless there is someone around to experience it!

So the question of the day is: Are we up to it?
Are we up to answering that call?
Are we up to hearing – to being quiet enough within ourselves to hear God’s voice?
What does God whisper in your ear today?

Does He bring you joy, and strength? Encouragement and empowerment?

God is present here today among us.
Or is it -- only just the thunder, only just the wind?

God also said to Isaiah, that same prophet we spoke about earlier:
“I said: Here I am! To a nation that did not call upon my name."

And now, today, God Himself says:
"Behold ,my beloved son!"

We need to call upon the name of the Beloved Son!
We need to hear and answer!
We need to look for Him, to see Him in the faces of each other, in the stranger, the oppressed, the least of our brothers and sisters.

The anointing –that Baptism of the Lord – is for us!

He knew who he was!
The Spirit of the Lord is now upon Him.
The voice is for us, and it speaks Truth, because Jesus is Truth incarnate!

Epiphany! God NOW is suddenly among us!
Not for His sake!
For our sakes!

My dear friends: Don’t let the world, don’t let anyone,
tell you that it was only thunder!