Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (A)
January 12, 2014
N.B. I will be embarking on a long journey by land to Eastern Samar to do an errand of charity so I am posting this well in advance. Happy new year to everyone!
Soren Kierkegaard had an interesting insight about knowing and behaving according to what one might know. If there were people who knew all about where the Messiah was to be born, they had to be the experts, the learned, the scribes … those who knew the law and had it in their finger tips. They knew everything there was to know. But they did not budge a single inch from where they stood, perched on the pinnacle of indifference and unconcern.
In contrast, the Magi only heard a rumor. But it was enough to make them go for the journey of a lifetime, in search of the rumored newborn king. They moved. They searched for him with might and main, even risking the ire of a jealous, insecure king, who also searched for the boy, but for different reasons.
Today, our own version of rumors get an astounding confirmation. Even Isaiah foresaw it: “Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased.”
But these are not mere empty rumors without bases. These are pieces of good news vouched for and guaranteed by no less than He who can neither deceive nor be deceived.
The Bible calls it a testimony, an act of witnessing – something that happens when one stands for a truth and stands by someone else about whom he witnesses for. This testimony was done by John the Baptist. First, he did by negating: “I am not the Christ.” Second, he did the same by affirming: “Someone else greater than me is coming.” “Behold the Lamb of God. Behold him who takes away the sins of the world.”
Today, rumors become testimonies and testimonies become manifestations of something bigger, something greater, something nobler. It was something worth the while of God the Father Himself to proclaim and confirm: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
All this in a day’s work for the precursor, the forerunner, John the Baptist, who did the baptism of the Lord he pointed out to amidst the crowds. A rumor has just become a compelling message, a confounding piece of good news, a convincing command from above: “Follow him.”
The Lord was baptized. He who was manifested in the flesh as divine at the Epiphany is now presented fully for who He is, for the world, for us, for me and you. And it has nothing to do with mere whispers utttered tentatively in hushed tones, empty rumors of something or about someone that does not satisfy shallow show business related curiosity.
The Baptism of the Lord is a compelling message becoming an equally compelling invitation to “come and listen, and follow and obey.”
Whispers from below need not be followed. But rumors from angels and from above need to be listened to. Thus was Isaiah’s convincing lines. So, too, was John the Baptist’s compelling command: “Behold!” “See!” “Look!”
For all their learnings and expertise, the Scribes missed the facts. They were waiting for the Messiah with detailed maps in hand and equally detailed instructions at the back of their minds. But they missed him when he came. But the Magi only had rumors and they moved and set out on a journey of search.
I guess there is a big difference between merely hearing the stale and static command to “know” and the command followed by Isaiah, by Paul, by John the Baptist and everyone else who set out in search for Him … “behold,” “see” and “look!”
The Scribes were satisfied in just knowing. The followers of John the Baptist did something more. The magi did something more. On the strength of what they knew and heard, they also moved out in search. Blessed are those who seek, for they will find.
Behold the Lamb of God! Behold him who takes away the sins of the world! This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Listen to him!