HOMILY FOR THE FEAST OF THE BAPTISM OF THE LORD

Bishop Ger Nash



It took some humility for Jesus to go to his cousin, John for Baptism. John knew where he came in the grand scheme of things – “I am not fit to kneel down and undo the strap of his sandals”. And if John knew this then Jesus knew it also. And still he came and was part of the crowd in humility and participation. And engaging with the crowd was a theme right through Jesus ministry. The crowd was the magnet that drew sympathy and love from him. He set himself to feed them (the loaves and fishes), he wanted to teach them (the Sermon on the Mount), he wanted no part of their plans to make him a political leader (he dodged the mob) and he was full of sorrow at their failure to see the real meaning behind the miracles. If we want to use the language that we will be using in this coming year in church, he was “walking with them”. It is this image of “walking with” that is behind Pope Francis’s call to “Synodality” In fact the word synodality has its roots in Greek and means exactly that – “walking with”

To do this we must be humble as Jesus showed us how to be. Humility does not mean believing that everybody else is right and agreeing with them. Humility means knowing the truth about myself and God and being able to listen to other peoples stories knowing that as we listen, it is God himself, inside us who is listening to that story. These stories may be very different from ours, they may be stories of people who are unable to see that they are part of God’s plan for humanity and that they are a line in the Gods plan which needs to be read if the whole plan is to make any sense.

The American writer, Parker J. Palmer noticed that the word humility and the word hummus – the decayed vegetable matter that feeds the roots of plans – have exactly the same root. Hummus implies fertility, something dying to give life to another plant. It draws our attention to the great miracle of life that from the mud and death of Winter there will be a new and vibrant Spring. True humility should have the same effect. When we fade into the background and God’s story takes root and is nurtured by that then real growth happens in God’s people. Where we are and who we are with them becomes fertile ground for the healing, comforting message of Christ to grow. Our Baptism, which made us part of God’s people and with a birthright of Heaven, is our invitation to have that humility which draws others to the Truth. On this day when we emphasise the gift of Baptism, may each of us live out our vocation as one of God’s people.