My first memory as a seminarian is of entering my room for the first time, tossing my bag on the bed, and walking over to the window.
From the window I could look into the lawn.
And there, I could see the Rector of the seminary, all alone, sweeping dry leaves in our lawn.
This made a big impression on me. I suppose I came to the seminary expecting that the Rector would be a dignified figure, high above us mere seminarians. But there he was pitching in with the chores just like anyone else. And it was the same all year long.
The rector swept floors, washed his laundry in our lavatory and scrubbed pots and pans with the rest of us.
He made it clear that he was one of us, and whatever we were doing; we were all in it together.
My second year as a seminarian, our Bishop gave us a new Rector (In our Diocese in Dipolog, we have reshuffling of assignment every 5 years)
Our formation year began with a weeklong silent retreat.
Then, on the 6th day, we had our house cleaning and manualia.
We were busy applying floor wax and scrubbing floors, wiping tables and windows, and taking out cob webs in the ceiling.
After the whole of day of toil, as we were catching our breaths squatting in our lawn, we saw our new Rector approaching bringing us 2 cellophane of assorted breads.
As it turned out, he was quite different from our old Rector.
Whenever work period rolled round, he was always occupied with other important duties.
Nevertheless, it was a nice gesture.
It seems to me that something similar is happening in our Gospel today. Jesus, to mark the beginning of his public ministry, is being baptized by John.
Now, John’s baptism is a baptism of repentance, and Jesus is without sin. He has nothing to repent.
John says to him, “I should be baptized by you, not you by me.” But Jesus insists, and John gives in.
Why does our Lord insist upon being baptized?
I think he is showing us, right from the start, that he is human. Though he is without sin, he is associating himself with the human need for redemption.
He wants to be fully identified with us, with those who are sinners, those who are marginalized, oppressed, pushed aside. In that crowd that came to follow John and be baptized, there were people of every class, every order, every nationality.
There were Gentiles, there were Jews, there were rich, there were poor, there were soldiers, there were peacekeepers — everyone — and Jesus comes to be one with them, and therefore, with all of us.
He is one of us, and we are all in this together.
We accept that Christ is divine, but it is equally essential that he be human.
Jesus lived, died and was resurrected from the dead so that we could be saved.
If he were not divine he couldn’t save us. If he were not human, it would not be us whom he saved.
Because he is a human being, what happens in Christ happens to and for us.
And it isn’t just a gesture on our Lord’s part.
Throughout his life he experiences, grief, fear, loss, hunger and thirst — all the tragedies, frustrations, petty humiliations and inconveniences that are characteristic of human existence.
All of this is a wonderful gift to us.
For I wonder if we would ultimately be able to worship a God who didn’t know what it was like to be one of us.
Motivated by boundless, immeasurable love, our Savior became like us, so that we might become like him.