January 15, 2012
Baptism of our LordJust why did our Lord need to be baptized? I suppose we would have to look at the definition of the word “need”. However, let's look at the baptism our Lord little bit differently.
What is love? Is love a myth? Is love a fantasy? Is love a mirage? Is love real? Most everyone here today would agree with me and say that love most certainly is not a myth, fantasy, or mirage. Love is most certainly “real”. No one who knows what love is could say such things, except maybe for those so hard or so hurt.
Atheists like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris I am quite sure do not think love is a myth. But their belief in love depends upon what they mean by “real”. Just what would they mean by “real”? Doesn't “real” mean real? Yes, to them love is real - that is a real experience. Love is “really” important. Love has a “real” place in our world and in our culture, and our relationships and even our morality. But would they say that love is actually and factually “real” beyond an experienced reality?
No, they wouldn't. They wouldn't, because they can't. To do so would mean they believed in that which they cannot because they are atheists. Because if they believe in atheism in the manner in which they state, love goes the way of all other things, all aspects of life and all experiences of living. Love is not really “real”. It just “seems real” because it is a human experience. And that experience is its fundamental and factual reality. It is a biochemical sensation type of experience. It is an adaptive artifact from a more primitive era that promotes social order. Nothing more.
If you are a spouse of someone who's atheist, then you are married to someone who believes all of life is only sensory and only material. That means love is nothing more than a biochemical event. Therefore, when your atheist spouse hugs you, you are nothing more than his or her favorite biochemical mass; his or her favorite pile of organic matter; his or her favorite animal species. Now I don't know about any of you, but that hardly sounds romantic, much less like love.
I suppose I could go on and on and use further possible examples. If anyone in this room is even remotely sensitive, we should recoil from such ridiculous examples. The perspectives of these thoughts are so shallow in their conception and even diabolical in its effects to entertain in any serious way even if you are an atheist.
Love is real. Love is inherent in us, a native component of what it means to be human. To deny the actual reality of love, the love within us, the love we want, the love we hope to be, is to define it differently than we really are. It removes our dignity, our nobility, our heroism, our stature and our divine spark. What would remain of us without love? Nothing else would remain except for a shell built on selfishness and self-interest. Love is like a loaf of bread. Without the leaven of love, we cannot rise above our pride, our passions, our senses, our sensuality, our survival, or are self-centeredness. Without love we are nothing but substance. We are left with our selfishness, our desire for survival, and our sensory passions.
But thankfully, the atheists are wrong. Love is real. Love is amazing. Love comes in many forms and fashions. It's lasting and fleeting. It is more than just the emotion and sensation. It is more than an idea or an impulse. It is even more than just a duty your commitment. It is all of these and more. Love is God!
It is because of this love that we exist. It is because of this love that God allows us to live as we do. It is because of this love the God comes in incarnate form. It is because of this love, that He takes upon himself our human form and becomes the second person of the Trinity. He becomes the Son of God.
God doesn't “need” to do anything. God, being all-powerful, all-knowing, all seeing and living for all eternity, did not need to create us or even do anything for us after he did. However, God did do many things for us and continues to do so every day. He loves us so much, that no matter how many times we would turn from him, He continues to love us. He continues see the beauty that He created, no matter how much we attempt to destroy it.
Humans are so atheistic, even to some degree those of us in this sanctuary today. It's hard for us to believe anything that we cannot see or touch. I can’t feel it like I can this pulpit. I can’t smell it. I don't see it. Yet my body reacts in a particular way when love is around.
It is this way with God too. When we open ourselves up to God, there's something far more than a biochemical sensation within our bodies, when because of that opening up of ourselves, the Holy Spirit enters within. God is always trying to get our attention. That is why He came to us as a human man. That is why He went to John the Baptist and was baptized. We needed to see. We needed to feel. We needed to touch. We needed to smell. And that River Jordan was not pleasant smelling either! But in those days we didn't have washing machines; they did not have nice clean baptismal fonts.
God wanted us to know that He existed. God wanted us to know that He loved us. He came in human form for that very reason. We love because God gave us the ability to do so. We love because God gives us emotions. No one on this earth will ever be able to convince me that everything I see, everything I feel, everything I smell, and everything I hear can be explained in scientific experiment. How is it that there is this earth with all its inhabitants and its creations in the middle of the universe of other planets of stone and mass? Coincidence? Evolution? Some test tube experiment from 5000 years ago and poof here we are?
No! We are here because God created us and our planet and everything in and on it. God created mankind with a brain that He allows us to use in a manner referred to as free will. It is because it of this free-will that we have taken God's creation and created things of our own. These clothes we wear; this building in which we are in; this chair is that we sit upon; the cars we drive; the food creations that we eat; and medicines that keep us alive.
Jesus was baptized because God wanted us to see him. Because God wanted to give us an example to follow. God wanted us to have a fighting chance in a world that we've turned to muck. Jesus taught his Apostles to baptize in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Ghost. John the Baptist baptized with dirty Jordan water, but by Jesus' command, we baptize with Holy Water and the Holy Spirit. We do this because we need to see, smell, feel and hear God's love coming upon us.
More and more as we go on with the Christian life we learn the strange power of the Spirit over circumstance; seldom sensationally declared, but always present and active. God in his richness and freedom comes into our every situation, overruling the ceaseless stream of events which make up our earthly existence, and through these events, he is molding our souls. The radiation of his love penetrates, modifies, and quickens our lives.
This action is the power of God in our life. Its pressure and action is continuous in and through the texture of our life and it is rarely seen, though some have been given a glimpse like that of Moses and the burning bush. It conditions our whole life from birth to death just as the invisible lines of force within a magnetic field condition all the tiny iron filings scattered on it. But now and then God emerges on the surface and startles us to witness a subtle and ceaseless power and love working within the web events of life.
This sort of evidence of the direct action of God lies very thick in the pages of the old and new Testaments, sometimes intervening in great and crucial events. Sometimes in very homely things like the shortage of wine at the wedding made good in a situation saved. Sometimes in desperate crisis like the storm quelled just in time and the chosen servants of God brought safely through danger. Sometimes in prison doors being opened. “The power of God unto salvation,” St. Paul said, is the essence of the Gospel, a personal energy, a never ceasing presence that intervenes in and overrules events. Nothing is by coincidence; nothing is by chance; but everything is by providence; God working in the created world.
Some of us find all this hard to believe. Some of us find it very strange, or even unimaginative and dull. But even on our tiny human scale, we feel that the Perfect Master of a great industry is one who organizes the whole in the interest of good and profitable work of the well-being of the workers, who gives his subordinates relative freedom and lets the factory run on ordained lines without too much interference in the details. He is always accessible to the personal troubles and desires of his workers, overrides rolls where necessary and is interested in every detail down to the factory cat. Even one human creature can do that without surprising us. But when Christ says the absolute Majesty and the holiness of God can both rule heaven and care for the Sparrow and will intervene to help and save, we think that it is poetry, paradox and stories about superstitions. Sometimes we are simply too stupid and too narrow in our notions to concede the energy of the Immeasurable Holy that enters our world and modifies and changes circumstance.
Beyond our abilities to see and understand, our eternal God is a never ceasing presence transforming daily events; helping us to open up more fully to his transforming grace and become more often an instrument for his purpose which is far more greater and holy the most purposes of our own.
God didn't “need” to come as man, but we “needed” him to do so. From the time of Adam and all through up to now, we human beings have been needing God to come into our lives Sometimes we are too much like the atheists and we lock our doors in an attempt to keep God out because we find it to impossible for God to do as He has done and is He is doing. The mechanics of our brains; of our internal organs; of the many different species of mammals and all of creation; point to something far greater than something that will ever be in a test tube. Love does exist. God does exist. God was baptized in the River Jordan. God is here with us today asking us not only to allow him in, but to invite Him in.
Jesus did not “need” to be baptized; but he knew we needed it. All of Jesus and of his life was previously prophesized. Some human being, many hundreds of years prior put to parchment things that took place in Jesus. We “needed” Jesus’ baptism. We “needed” it, because we are doubting imperfect creations who “need” their Creator. That is what is “real”. That is love. That is God’s love.
Let me leave you with a small teaching by Mother Teresa.
“If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you. Then you will know that you are nothing. It is only when you realize your nothingness; your emptiness, that God can fill you with himself.”
God Love You +
+ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Universal Catholic Church
San Diego, Ca.