It is one of the more famous photographs of World War II. In the background is a bombed-out cathedral of Europe. The cathedral had been reduced to rubble during an air raid that killed many people. A few days later, much of the rubble had been cleared away, revealing a life-sized statue of Christ still standing in front of the ruined cathedral. Surprisingly, the statue was still in tact, its arms extended as if to embrace the devastated townspeople. The only damage to the statue was that both hands had been blown away. But someone had placed a sign at its base. It read: He has no hands but yours!
Does it ever occur to us that we : you and I : are now the hands of Christ in the world today?
A great saint of the church, Teresa of Avila, once declared: Christ has no body but ours, no feet on earth but ours. Ours are the eyes through which Christ looks with compassion upon the world. Ours are the feet with which Christ walks to do good. Ours are the hands with which Christ blesses the world." Teresa's words strike home! When Christ rose from the dead and ascended to heaven, he was no longer physically present on earth. So Christ must live in us to finish what he started!
In today's Gospel. Christ does something he doesn't need to do: he is baptized by John. I believe he does this as an example for us. As he rises from the water, the Spirit comes upon him to declare him "God's Beloved One with whom God is well pleased." It is through Baptism that you and I are called to take the place of Christ in today's world. The same Spirit comes to us to declare that we too are God's beloved ones. Baptism calls us to continue Christ's mission, to bring justice and peace, forgiveness and compassion to this earth. Are we up to the task? Why not! The very same Spirit that settled upon Jesus at his baptism settles upon us at our baptism.
If we were asked what part of our Sunday Liturgy is most important, how might we respond? Some here might say it is listening attentively to the Gospel proclamation, the Good News Jesus brings us. Others might say it is taking Communion, the meal of Bread and Wine that is Jesus himself. Still others might say it is simply the gathering of this community of baptized people in worshipful, heartfelt prayer. These are good responses, but I offer you a different answer. I say the most important part of our Sunday Liturgy may well be the dismissal rite wherein we are told to "go forth to love and serve the Lord." If we refuse or neglect that mandate, our Eucharist becomes empty and self-serving.
Baptism claims us for service to others, especially to those in need. To be the hands and heart,the feet and eyes of Christ for others, we must reach out to people. If we do not leave here today to "Go forth to love and serve the Lord" by loving and serving God's people, our Sunday Eucharist becomes what it was never meant to be: a tiresome, meaningless ritual. We cannot allow this to happen. Look for people who need Christ in their lives. Then be Christ for them! That's who we are!