Baptism as Healing

Today’s Gospel describes the baptism of Jesus. This passage like so many others in the Bible is not meant only to tell us about events of the past, but also to speak about our own lives. So, it is fitting today that we reflect on our own baptism and what it means. I think we all know that through baptism we are united with Christ. But baptism does more than simply begin that relationship. It supports us as the relationship continues. What I want to talk about today is how our baptism continues to support us as we live our lives.

Now to answer this question, we go back to the gospel. We note that the gospel is very specific about where Jesus was baptized. He was baptized in the Jordan River. That reference to the Jordan River allows us to connect Jesus’ baptism to another event that happened at the Jordan River several centuries before: the healing of Naaman. Naaman was not a Jew. He was the Gentile commander of the army for the king of Aram. Naaman was a leper. In the second book of Kings, Naaman approaches the Jewish prophet Elisha and asks to be healed. Elisha says that he should wash seven times in the Jordan River, and he would be cleansed. Naaman does this, and he is healed. So, the Jordan River connects these two events of Naaman and Jesus. In so doing we are reminded that our baptism is a source of healing in our lives here and now. We who have been washed in the waters of baptism can be healed like Naaman who washed in the Jordan River. Because we are united with Christ, we have access to his healing power.

That power can apply to many areas of our lives. We might need physical healing. As we deal with doctors and treatments for serious diseases like cancer, we should not fail to remember that we belong to Jesus through baptism and should call upon his healing in our lives. We might need healing in our relationships. There may be misunderstanding and resentment with people we care about. As we try to initiate dialogue and reconciliation, it would be foolish not to remember how Jesus to whom we belong has the power to help heal those broken relationships. We might need healing in our personal lives. There may be habits of sin such as prejudice, sexual excess, or negativity. We should, of course, try to control such habits by our will power. But we are also united with Jesus, and we can call upon his healing power as we try to move forward.

There is an interesting detail in the story of Naaman that is relevant to us as well. When Elisha first told Naaman to wash in the River Jordan, Naaman refused. He thought it was too simple a request. He said if all he had to do was wash in a river, he could have used a river in his own country. He planned to ignore Elisha’s instructions. But Naaman’s servants convinced him to change his mind. One of them said, “If the prophet would have asked you to do something very difficult, you would have done it. How much more so should you do it if it’s as simple as to wash and be clean?”

I think sometimes we fail to ask Jesus for his healing power because it is so simple. If Jesus told us that we could be cured of our cancer if we made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, we would make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. How much more so should we simply call upon Jesus’ help. Jesus says to us, “You belong to me through baptism, so ask for my help. Wash and be clean.” We all know the areas of our life that need healing. So along with all the things we try to do, let us not forget to do the simple thing: to ask Jesus to heal us. We are already washed in baptism. So now, let us ask and be clean.

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