Sunday, January 11, 2015

Meeting Halfway

Feast Of The Baptism Of The Lord

Video: Youtube Link

Ooh ooh, I can't go any further than this.
Ooh ooh, I want you so badly, it's my biggest wish...
Can you meet me halfway, right at the borderline?
That's where I'm gonna wait for you.
I'll be looking out night and day.
Took my heart to the limit, and this is where I stay…
Let's walk the bridge to the other side, just you and I.
I will fly, fly the skies for you and I
I will try until I die for you and I...

Sisters and brothers, I’m not sure if any of you are familiar with these words. They are taken from the song Meet Me Halfway. Released in 2009, by the hip-hop group, The Black-Eyed Peas. The song is sung by a pair of lovers, who have somehow gotten separated. And now they are pining for each other. Yearning to be reunited. I want you so badly, it’s my biggest wish… But there’s a problem. Neither seems able to make it all the way to where the other is. So each one promises to go as far as s/he possibly can. Hoping that they will meet somewhere along the way. Can you meet me halfway, right at the borderline?… I’ll be looking out night and day. Took my heart to the limit, and this is where I stay… Not quite the full distance. But only halfway. At the borderline.

Sisters and brothers, have you ever had a similar experience? Of wanting something or someone so very badly. And yet, finding yourself falling short? Not having what it takes to go all the way? Wishing that the distance could somehow be shortened for you? That someone would meet you halfway? And what a relief it is. What a great comfort and consolation. When that happens.

Well, sisters and brothers, believe it or not, this is what we celebrate today. In the first reading, God invites the people to come to the water. To seek the Lord. To turn to God, from whom alone they will receive everything they need for their happiness and survival. The satisfaction of their deepest desires. Buy corn without money, and eat, and, at no cost, wine and milk. The gracious invitation could not be any clearer. The promised rewards no more enticing. All you have to do is come. Come to the water. And God will provide everything you need.

But there is a catch. To turn to the Lord, the people have to stop feeding themselves on other foods. To stop clinging to things less than God. Things that may look attractive. But don’t fill the soul. Why spend your money on what is not bread, your wages on what fails to satisfy? And, of course, there are those who will fall short. Those who, try as hard as they might, will not be able to do this. Those who will find it difficult to travel all the way to the water of God’s presence.

So what to do if I find myself among people such as this? How to meet and be nourished by God, if I have not the strength to go the full distance? If I keep getting trapped in my own sinfulness. Imprisoned in my own blindness. Lost in my own addictions. My petty resentments. And worldly preoccupations. The gospel provides the answer. Since the people are unable to go the full distance. God allows them to come only halfway. If not to the brilliant glory of God’s holy presence. Then at least to the murky depths of the river Jordan. To the waters of repentance. Here, by being baptized by John, the people express their determination to turn away from idols. Their desire to turn back to God. And, even if they may not have what it takes to go all the way. Even though they may not be strong enough to live out their commitment to the full. Something marvellous happens. God actually comes to the water and meets them halfway. Jesus comes to the Jordan to be baptised along with them.

Of course, being the Son of God, Jesus himself needs no repentance. He has no sins to be washed away. He plunges into the Jordan not to be cleansed. But rather to make its waters holy. In Jesus, God comes to meet us halfway. Through the baptism of  Christ, the Jordan river becomes a borderline. Filled with the powerful presence of God. Father, Son, and Spirit. So that all the weak and hungry people. All the tired and thirsty people. All the hesitant and fearful people. People who can’t make it all the way. People like me. Can at least stumble to the river of repentance. Can fall headlong into its forgiving waters. And find life.

Nor do we actually have to travel to the Middle East to immerse ourselves in the Jordan. The second reading reminds us that Christ himself is the River of Life. Christ himself is the borderline where God comes to meet us. Who can overcome the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. The ones who immerse themselves in the river of blood and water flowing from the side of Christ. As he hangs on the Cross. The ones who are baptised in the Blood of the Lamb. The ones who share in the One Bread and the One Cup. The Broken Body and Precious Blood of Christ. The ones who draw strength from this River. To do what they would otherwise not be able to do by themselves. Overcome the world. This is the victory over the world–our faith. Our faith in Christ, by whose Dying and Rising, God comes to meet us halfway. At the borderline between sin and grace.

Sisters and brothers, this is what we celebrate today. The merciful love of a God who, knowing well our weakness, our inability to go the full distance, travels tirelessly to seek us out. Even to the extent of taking up and laying down his life for us. Meeting us at the limits of our endurance. So that, weak though we may be, we may yet find our way home. May yet enjoy not just food and drink. But life to the full. At the table of our Lord. At the altar of our God. As we do here at this very Eucharist.

And that’s not all. God calls us not just for ourselves. In the first reading, the people are told that God has made of them a witness to the peoples, a leader and a master of the nations. You will summon a nation you never knew… Not only are we called to meet God and to find life for ourselves. We, in our turn, are sent to bear witness to what we has been done for us. To call others to the life-giving waters of God’s love and mercy. And we do this by meeting them halfway. By offering others, who are weak and needy, what we ourselves have received in Christ. A helping hand. A listening ear. A forgiving heart. A life laid down in mercy and compassion. And isn’t this what this painfully divided and disconnected world of ours needs most of all today? People able to meet halfway. People willing even to lay their lives on the borderline. Not in violence and revenge. But in mercy and compassion. The same mercy and compassion shown to us by the God who first laid down his life for us.

Sisters and brothers, as for The Black-Eyed Peas, so too for us. Separated lovers can hope for reunion only by meeting one another halfway. At the borderline of God's undying love. How willing are we to go at least this far, to meet and be reconciled with God and with one another today?

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