Deacon Cornell's Homilies


Isaiah 53:10-11
Hebrews 4:14-16
Mark 10:35-45


October 22, 2000, Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B (with Baptism)

It is so easy for us humans to fall into a mode where we try to make God over in our image, instead trying to live out the image of God in which we were made. Over the past few weeks we have been listening to this section of Mark where Jesus, in various situations and with different teachings tries to move the disciples gently out of their very limited view of who the Messiah is. As we can see from today’s story, they still don’t get it. James and John see only a chance for them to benefit personally when Jesus comes into his kingdom. Of course we can excuse the disciples because they have not had the benefit of knowing of Jesus’ death and resurrection but it goes deeper than that. We have the benefit of that hindsight and we still fall into that mode.

That is why it is so important to celebrate liturgy well. Liturgy, ritual, done well gives us a window on the wall of our limitations through which we catch a glimpse of a reality that is larger than us, more than we can get our intellect around. When we fail to do liturgy well, that window closes and we are left stuck within the boundaries of our human limitations. I think Baptism is striking example of how doing the ritual poorly has cause it to lose its ability to draw us past the boundaries. Over centuries leading up to Vatican II, we have whittled down, compacted, sanitized, and trivialized the baptism ritual so that it is pushed off to the side. I would bet there are Catholics who have never witnessed a baptism. I think the trivialization of the Baptism ritual is why so few people can articulate the significance of Baptism. When I ask parents who are bringing their child for baptism why that is important to them, most of the answers are variations on what the sons of Zebedee were asking for: some personal benefit for being a follower of Jesus. The typical answers range from: I was brought up Catholic and I want my child to experience what I did; or I want my child to have a moral life; or I want my child to go to heaven. All good things, but certainly missing the elements that Jesus tries to explain to the disciples. After listening to the readings today, Jesus’ challenge to James and John to share his baptism, or to drink from the same cup as he will, to the stark image of the suffering servant in that famous passage from Isaiah, even to the confidence in our high priest that the passage from Hebrews gives us, it is hard to describe baptism as only having to do with anyone’s personal benefit. That is why I am so glad that we are celebrating this baptism where the new ritual says is the normal place baptism should take place, in the midst of the Sunday assembly. For without the presence of the community and the visible connection to the transformation Eucharist calls us to, it is hard to see the real significance of baptism.

How many people have seen the movie The Lion King? Who can tell me what happened Simba at the very beginning of the movie? Rafiki, the wise old baboon, anoints Simba with the liquid from a gourd, sprinkles sand on him, and then takes him out onto Pride Rock and holds him up. What is going on here? The symbols of the gourd liquid and sand are used to make visible what we cannot see: this ordinary looking lion cub is the Lion King. In the ritual, the reality that this cub, who looks like every other cub, is the Lion is made real in the hearts and minds of the animals, and they bend their knees in response.

In a few minutes we will use the symbols of water and chrism to make visible, to make more real, the hidden reality that God has called Colin by name to be a follower of Jesus. After baptizing him with water, we will anoint him with Chrism praying, “As Christ was anointed priest, prophet, and king, so may you live always as a member of His body, sharing everlasting life.” A priest is one who offers spiritual sacrifices pleasing to God and who, like Rafiki help others to understand who they truly are and who God is; a prophet is one who speaks God’s truth in a world that is afraid of the truth, and makes fun or despises those who speak it; and a king is one who takes care of those who cannot care for themselves in this world. That is what Jesus did when he walked this earth, and what he teaches his disciples, and us, in today’s gospel. Those are the roles we are called to as his disciples.

But just as Simba’s anointing did not instantly make him a good Lion King, Colin will have to grow into his roles. How will he learn to be a good priest, prophet, and king? In the first place, he will learn from his parents. Not so much from what Tim and Theresa say, but from how they live their lives. In this world of ours, it is difficult, if not impossible, to carry out our baptismal call by ourselves. These parents will need the help of our community and the whole Church. These generous godparents have consented to be the symbol of our community’s responsibility to help these parents raise Colin in the faith.

Baptism is not something that happens only to this child, or even to his family, or to our community, or even to the whole Church. It happens to, and for, the whole world. We are not baptized to save ourselves; we are baptized to save the world. Salvation comes from God of course but how has he chosen to make it happen? Our readings remind us that it is through us, the baptized. So we must gather together at baptisms like this, at weddings, funerals, first communions, and confirmations but also each week at Mass, in religious ed. classes, in outreach activities, to support each other, to encourage each other, to see others who are trying to live out their call to be priest, prophet, and king. The salvation of the world depends on it. Despite what the world proclaims, we cannot be truly happy by finding material wealth for ourselves while others suffer from hunger, and war, and violence. We cannot be truly happy until the evil of the world is wiped out by the kingdom of God here on earth.

So as we baptize these babies, I am going to ask all of you to join with the parents and godparents in renewing your baptismal vows. By renewing your vows, you will be expressing to these parents your acceptance of the responsibility to help them raise these children to be part of our holy priesthood, our consecrated nation. And I pray that in renewing our baptismal vows, we will see who we truly are: priest, prophet, and king.

homily index