Baptism Of The Lord – Year C
Deacon Tom Vert
Preached: January 13, 2019
“When the soil is great, the fruits grow better!”
It’s funny sometimes when you are preparing homilies that a certain phrase or line grabs a hold of you and draws you in.
This is especially interesting as you preach for many years as the readings come back every 3 years in the Catholic faith and we are challenged to see them new and fresh once again.
We actually hear of the Baptism of the Lord every year and I was thinking what would God reveal new this year.
And as I was preparing this week, one line of the gospel stuck with me that says: “Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized”.
I don’t know why, but I always in my head assumed that Jesus went to John the Baptist alone, either early in the morning, or later in the afternoon, but it was an individual experience.
But the gospel of Luke tells us that Jesus was humble and he started his ministry not with great pomp and ceremony, not with big signs saying “look at me’, but instead with the rest of people, as part of the community.
He was baptized with the rest of the crowds that had come to John for a transformation, repentance from sins and a turning towards God.
This humility, this humbleness, modesty and meekness strike a chord. Jesus did not come as the warrior king of Jewish history, but the humble servant who would give his own life for each of us.
The lesson God is showing us today is humility.
The origin of the word humility is of course humble, which is actually a Latin word “humus” which means earth.
It invokes this image of earthiness, people who are grounded, people who are simple servants and workers and people who I would call “solid”.
And this earthiness reminded me of St. Catherine of Siena!
St. Catherine had a mystical experience of a dialogue with God the Father which was transcribed and which I am currently reading in preparation for the pilgrimage to Italy this May.
In this dialogue with God, St. Catherine tells us of a wonderful image of a tree in the soil, and would like to ask you today to picture it with me.
- Picture in your mind a beautiful large fruit tree and it is a tree of the love of God
- Now the fruit of the tree is “fragrant blossoms of virtues” – like faith, hope, love, justice and peace
- The odor of the tree is glory and praise to God (almost like incense rising)
- The branches of the tree are discretion and patience
- The tree is planted in a circle of knowledge of ourselves and of God
- And in the circle is the earth, which she tells us is the soil of humility
St. Catherine tells us that the “tree of love feeds itself on humility”!
Humility – humus – the earth – the soil – this is key to our faith life and probably why Jesus modeled it by his behavior at his baptism.
Humility is key, because if we truly know ourselves, if we are honest with ourselves over our faults, our weaknesses, our failings – in “what I have done and what I have failed to do” then we can minimize or eliminate the sin of pride in our lives.
We realize that there is no possible way to live the Christian life without the help of God himself and with the help of one another.
God is available to us always through prayer, through the Eucharist, through reading the Bible; and we are to be available to one another as St. Paul tells us to “build each other up”!
How hard it would be to go the journey of faith alone!
So how do we become humble? How do we increase our humility?
It’s funny even to ask this question as society sees humility as a bad thing – when your sports team loses badly they are “humiliated”.
Who better than to teach us than one of the most humble saints of all time: St. Mother Teresa when she said this:
“Humility is the mother of all virtues … It is in being humble that our love becomes real, devoted and passionate. If you are humble, nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know what you are. If you are blamed, you will not be discouraged. If they call you a saint you will not put yourself on a pedestal.”
Before she died she left her fellow sisters (and us) a practical way on how to become humble with15 key tips:
1. Speak as little as possible about yourself.
2. Keep busy with your own affairs and not those of others.
3. Avoid curiosity. (referring to things that don’t concern you)
4. Do not interfere in the affairs of others.
5. Accept small irritations with good humour.
6. Do not dwell on the faults of others.
7. Accept criticisms even if unmerited.
8. Give in to the will of others.
9. Accept insults and injuries.
10. Accept contempt, being forgotten and disregarded.
11. Be courteous and gentle even when provoked by someone.
12. Do not seek to be admired and loved.
13. Do not protect yourself behind your own dignity.
14. Give in, in discussions, even when you are right. (Also great marital advice!)
15. Choose always the more difficult task.
“Learn to be humble by doing all the humble work and doing it for Jesus.”
These 15 tips/lessons are great for us to ponder, review and put into practice – they are available on the internet as Mother Teresa’s humility list, but I will also have them added to the parish web site.
These lessons are the water, the fertilizer, and the aeration for the soil around our spiritual tree.
Let us try this week to put some of these into practice – and if you are struggling with this, remember this phrase which can help energize you:
“When the soil is great, the fruits grow better!”