Matthew 3:13-17 Baptize Me and Aim at Me!
I remember vividly a scene from the movie “Black Robe” in which a Jesuit priest is sent from France to evangelize the Huron Indians in French Quebec. Although his name is not St. Isaac Jogues or St. John de Brebeuf, the two Jesuit missionaries canonized by the Church, it is a story very similar to theirs. Along the journey, the missionary endures loneliness, trials, hardship, betrayal, starvation, capture, torture only to arrive to the mission where he finds one priest at the entrance of the Church dead, killed with an ax to his head. The Indians believed that the “black robes” were evil. When morning arrives, he goes out and rings the bell for morning Mass. To his surprise the indians come out from their teepees, lead by their chief, who asks the new black robe if he plans to stay with them. He responds, “Yes”. The Chief asks black robe a series of questions, which culminates in the ultimate question: “Do you love us?” After a great pause and after much reflection, he answers, “Yes.” Then the Chief demands from the priest, “Then baptize us.”
Thus begins the mission of the Church: to bring all her children, baptized by water and the Spirit, to eternal life.
Baptized in the Jordon. Make no mistake. The Lord’s blessings are abundant. His mercy endures forever. His graces are overflowing. John baptized in the Jordon because he wanted plenty of water and people. All are welcomed. All are invited to change their lives for good, to be part of the body of Christ, his bride, his Church. We expect so little from God. We ask not for the greatest gifts but for superficial blessings: health and wealth for our children and maybe even for ourselves. And yet, the Lord’s blessings are like a river, ready to consume us in the most profound manner of my very being. We have built small chapels for daily Mass. Why? Because we expect fewer people! The Lord does not think small. He thinks in large, massive, life size scales. All Churches should be filled to capacity and they would be if we shared with others what the Lord has done for us. The Lord was prepared to accept all. He was more than ready for them during his life time. All they needed to do was follow Him.
I should be baptized by you. The Lord came from Heaven to earth to be with us. But that wasn’t enough for the Lord. He wanted to identify with us, so he became a man. But that too wasn’t good enough for the Lord. So what did he do? He got in line with us! He became one with us. The Lord wants to share my life with his – all of it! It is better than a marriage because when a man and a woman get married, they get married when things are beautiful, good, wonderful, exciting and full of hope! The Lord gets to marry us when we are old and poor, dirty and filthy in sin, sick and estranged. For Him, this is the best time to marry us, when we are at our lowest moment. John was absolutely right; the Lord should have baptized him. But instead, the Lord was baptized by John. The Lord makes himself a target. He makes himself a hero on our behalf. The six people killed in Arizona were much fewer than the assassin had hoped for because two individuals became targets. They knocked him down so that others could live. They made themselves a target so that others would be saved.
Finally John reminds us of a forgotten virtue : the buck stops here. He tells the Lord, "I should be baptized by you." How often do we hide our sins by blaming others for our sinfulness? Allow the buck to stop with you. Take responsibility for your own actions. Stop blaming others.
Allow the Lord to make you His target and be forgiven, and to become a target for others: to forgive them, so that souls can be saved through you. Then, and only then, will the heavens open and declare, "This is my beloved child."
What happened in the Lord's Baptism has happened to me.