Anyone who were to look upon the face of the winged, Greek mythological Gorgon known as Medusa, would instantly be turned into cold, lifeless stone. By some accounts, she had been an incredibly beautiful young lady, attractive to all men, but as punishment for a misdeed, her hair was changed into serpents. and her face made so horrible that anyone who looked upon her instantly would be turned into stone. So, as the myth goes, Medusa’s power was revealed in her ability to transform a living person into dead earthen rock.
Another mythological creature, King Midas, had what was known as the golden touch or the Midas touch. As a result of a wish having been granted to him, everything that met with his hands turned into gold. Midas was joyful and elated, touching everything in sight, including the flowers near his house. His daughter, whom he greatly loved, however, was dismayed and greatly saddened that the flowers no longer had their uplifting fragrance, but were now cold, hard, and lifeless. Midas attempted to comfort his precious daughter, and as he began to embrace her, she likewise turned into solid gold by his touch. Full of sorrow, he repented and begged to be released from his wish. The “gift” Midas had received had become a curse and his greatest sorrow; touching his loving daughter changed vibrant life into dead earthen metal.
Unlike these mythological characters of old, we know of one who can truly transform lives, our Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He is true God and true man, who humbled himself to be born of the Virgin Mary in the poverty of an animal stall, to grow up as an exile and an alien in a foreign land, and to return to his homeland for his adolescent years. He studied and learned the woodworking craft of his father Joseph, and at a time preordained by God the Father from the very beginning of time, Jesus began his ministry on earth. Today, we hear from Luke’s Gospel, the events that unfolded on that first day.
“After all the people had been baptized [by John in the Jordan River,] and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.’” (NAB, LK 3:21-22) The mysterious Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, revealed at this moment, the inauguration of Jesus’ ministry on earth and his revelation as the Messiah, the Christ, the long-awaited Second Person of the One True and Only God.
Jesus, who was without sin, did not need baptism, but in being baptized in water, Purity and Holiness itself sanctified the waters of earth. He who was present at the waters of creation now changes what is of earth into the holy, giving life to what was dead. When Jesus touches, he sacramentalizes, he makes holy, and he sanctifies whatever is profane and ordinary. He elevates what is of this earth to the heavenly heights, for heaven and earth are united in him and through him. Jesus, who emptied himself and became one of us, subject to the laws of this world, performed his ministry of teaching, healing, and forgiveness in real and tangible ways. He touched people, He ate with them, He cried with them, He held them, and He died for them. In his humility, he sanctifies humanity itself, making possible the blessed and eternal life for which we hope.
Jesus, you emptied yourself by becoming one like me, and you further humbled yourself by submitting to John’s baptism of water. You did this out of love for me, and thereby sanctified the water, making it holy, that I may be reborn in water and Spirit, through your grace and the saving, sacramental waters which flow throughout your Church. Your touch brings life to what was dead. Touch me! Touch my heart, so that I may faithfully live in your love, proclaiming your Kingdom, as I await the fulfillment of my eternal hope. May you forever be glorified. Amen.