Thursday, March 16, 2017

3rd Sunday of Lent (Gospel: John 4:5-42) Baptism and the waters of life

Today we have the baptism of an infant, Emmet Donato, who is just four months old. There is nothing like a new baby to give us hope; the promise of the next generation. The Gospel today is particularly appropriate for a baptism, where Jesus offers the Samaritan woman ‘living water’, which can only come from God. But why baptize a child at all? Why not wait until they are an adult and what is the importance of Baptism anyway?

Way back at the beginning we believe that God created everything, the heavens and the earth, the visible world and the invisible world. It is also worth mentioning that faith and science don’t contradict each other, they just look at things from a different perspective. Science looks at how our universe developed, step by step; what exactly happened. Faith asks why it is there in the first place, why is there anything instead of nothing. The two most important things that the creation story in Genesis tell us is that it was God who created and that what God created was fundamentally good. It also says that the human being was God’s greatest creation, God’s masterpiece, because we are made in his image with free will and the ability to love.

We also understand that somewhere way back at the beginning our first parents rejected God’s word, rebelled against what He taught them and so sin entered the world. That was the Fall, which is itself a very mysterious thing. The problem was that we ourselves could not repair the damage we had done. The bridge between heaven and earth had now been broken. So God came among us in the person of Jesus who was fully human and fully divine, in order to make up for the damage done. By sacrificing himself for us he reopened the way to heaven, the possibility of eternal life with God which we had lost. That’s why Jesus’ coming among us is so important and why Easter is such an extraordinary feast. It is the feast of our being set free. It is now possible to go to heaven again.

 When we baptize someone we are saying yes I believe all that God has done for me and I accept it. I want to be drenched in the life of God. When you step out into a summer down-pour in Florida you get soaked, ‘baptized’ in the water. That’s what it means. By being baptized we are saying ‘Let me have it!’ Let me have all that God has done for me. When we baptize an adult they first have to go through a time of preparation where they learn about our faith. Only when they are ready do they receive baptism. If we baptize an infant we do it on condition that they will be taught their faith as they grow up. Otherwise it would be hypocrisy.

In this Gospel Jesus has an unusual encounter with a woman. In the culture of the time it would have been unthinkable for a Jew to speak to a Samaritan woman on her own, and even more outrageous to share a drinking vessel with her. The fact that she was there in the middle of the day on her own also tells us something. Women would have gone to the well early in the morning or in the evening in groups and not with men. Being there on her own at noon indicates that she was not welcome in her community. She was shunned because of her lifestyle. But Jesus reaches out to her and offers her ‘the waters of life’. What is this life? It is life in Christ and all that he is offering to us. Following his teaching is the path that will lead us to heaven. Baptizing someone is offering them all that Jesus offered the woman and also offers us.

We only want the very best for our children and that is why we baptize them as infants and immerse them in all that God offers us. As they grow we try and pass on that same faith and that takes all of us. We bear witness to them by the way we live. If we do our best to live our faith it will help them to see how real and important it is too.

If you only knew what God was offering you and who it was that was asking you for a drink, you would have been the one to ask, and he would have given you living water.

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