There’s a story told of a little Italian opera company on tour traveling from town to town. On one occasion the leading man sang an aria. When he finished the audience called for an encore. So he sang it again and again with more calls for an encore. This happened about five times and the singer was tired and confused. He shrugged his shoulders and looked at the crowd. There was silence, and then someone from the audience shouted ‘you’re going to sing it til you get it right.’
Today’s gospel is John’s account of the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist. Last week we heard Matthew’s telling of Jesus’ baptism. It’s as if the church is calling for an encore of the telling of this great event hoping that we will ‘get it right’ hoping that we will come to a deeper understanding of the importance our own baptism and what our baptism calls us to be.
Our baptism, which usually took place on a Sunday afternoon as we were joined by other infants, was neither as dramatic nor spectacular as was Jesus’. But it was on that occasion that the Spirit of God was poured into our very being, giving us the boldness to call God, Father. At our baptism we were invited into a life long, life-giving relationship with the Father. At our baptism we were ‘called to be saints,’ to put on Christ and to grow to full maturity in Christ. At our baptism we were given a lighted candle and challenged to be a light to the world by the way we live our Christian lives. At our baptism we were clothed in a white garment, the outward sign of our Christian dignity and asked to keep that dignity unstained. Only gradually and through the example of our parents and receiving a fundamental instruction in our faith in school and at Mass do we come to appreciate the full implications of our baptism. I don’t know whether or not you ever heard parents saying; “We got to get the kid done” making baptism sound like a one shot affair. Our baptism was not a dunking, it was a birthing and birthing is the beginning of a life time process.
Maybe today we could ask ourselves questions such as: where am I in this life process? Am I growing to maturity in Christ? How Christ-like is my life? Am I a light to others? Could the Father look at me and the way I live my life and say, “this is my beloved in whom I am well pleased”?
Faced with such questions we automatically think of our faults and failures. We see ourselves short of the mark. This may be true. Remember we are mistake-making beings and we are a work in process. Unfortunately we are not conditioned to see and admit the good we do and the good we are. That would be being proud. No, that would be being honest. We are good people, mistake-making beings yes, but always we keep trying to be the person God wants us to be, the person we want to be.
Can we imagine God looking into our lives and calling for an ‘encore’? Can we imagine God saying to us, “don’t lose heart, don’t give up, keep on trying.” Imagine God saying, “try again, try again to be more patient, try again to be more understanding and more forgiving, try again to be more self controlled, try again to be more accepting of other people, try again to be more hopeful, try again to be more thoughtful of others, try again to be more trusting in my love for you, try again to come to me in prayer,try again to trust that I understand and I am with you.”
At the end of the day, a day in which we tried as best we could, a day in which we’ve won some and lost some, at the end of such a day imagine God saying to us, encore, encore, try again.