1. Effective this past Wednesday there is a new law in the state of New York
2. One with far reaching consequences.
a. However, it isn’t a tax rule
b. or a new directive protecting the rights of immigrants or oppressed minorities;
3. It is a new law which gives a group of New Yorkers
a. the right to ask one of the most basic of questions: who Am I?
4. The new Adoptee Rights Law gives adult adopted persons the right to request a birth certificate without restrictions.
5. In short to know who their real parents are.
6. This law was fought over for years as legislators argued that birth parents had a right to remain anonymous,
7. But in our world, where genetic testing and histories have become so important to avoiding disease,
8. Insurance costs trumped other arguments.
9. And yet, it could be argued, there was a far more basic reason to grant access to this information.
10. That reason is a question that many children ask as they grow.
a. “Mommy, daddy, am I adopted?”
11. I know because I asked it when I was young.
12. It happens because, as we grow,
a. we become aware
b. that we are different from our siblings, our parents, different from others.
13. That question is the only way our young minds know how
a. to ask that deeper question about who we truly are.
14. When asked, most parents react with a mixture of shock and humor,
a. reassuring their children that of course they are not adopted;
b. That reassurance helps us understand
i. that who we are
ii. is intimately connected with whose we are.
1. We belong to mommy and daddy
2. We are their son their daughter.
15. and not just because we might have asked his question as children.
a. It is because the question of who we truly are is one we ask all the time.
i. It determines who our friends are, whom we work for, whom we love.
ii. It defines our relationships, our values, our very lives.
b. To know whose we are is to know who we are;
i. and to not know that we belong to someone
1. is one of the loneliest feelings in the world.
16. That question is so important that we should not be surprised that it is the question behind ALL the QUESTIONS we hear in today’s Gospel.
17. In today’s Gospel, we are standing at the River Jordan.
a. That may not mean that much to us,
i. but to the Jewish people standing there
ii. the Jordan was a river filled with meaning.
b. It was the river they passed through hundreds of years before
i. When they first entered the promised land
ii. after decades of wandering in the wilderness with Moses.
c. In the centuries since they first crossed the river Jordan
i. they had been attacked, divided, conquered and exiled.
ii. They had been ruled by the Babylonians, the Persians the Greeks and now the Romans.
d. And while that defeat was fearful,
i. their deepest fear was that the centuries of exile and oppression had caused them to forget who they truly were.
18. Thus, they were there at the river. Listening to a man, John the Baptist, who
a. had called out again into the wilderness,
b. called them out again to the Jordan
c. and made them wash in it, made them pass through those waters again.
19. Why? Because someone was coming who would reveal who they truly are!
a. Who was he? At the beginning of the Gospel, the Gospel writer John sings of him as the great organizing principle of the cosmos and calls him the WORD
i. but John the Baptist doesn’t call him that.
b. Just prior to today’s Gospel, people come to the Jordan asking for the Messiah; that political figure people who would come and overthrow the Romans.
i. But John doesn’t call him that ether.
c. When John finally sees Jesus, he points to him and says that the reason he has been baptizing was to prepare them for the coming of this man;
i. Jesus - whom he calls the Lamb of God.
20. We might be left scratching our heads;
a. but the other people on that riverbank would not be.
21. Most of Jesus’ first followers,
a. if they were not catching fish
i. were herding sheep
b. And they knew that lambs were many things;
i. but violent was not one of them; lambs were gentle.
22. Moreover, they knew today’s first reading,
a. Where Isaiah speaks of that suffering servant
i. who would gather the people of Israel together again,
1. but be led like a lamb to the slaughter.
23. And most importantly they knew that every year at Passover
a. They sacrificed and ate a Lamb,
b. In memory of the lambs whose blood,
c. painted on their doorposts hundreds of years before in Egypt
d. Saved them from Death and set them free from slavery to be God’s people.
24. Who is Jesus? According to John
a. He is God’s lamb;
i. who would reveal that gentleness was God’s will rather than war;
ii. who would give his life to bring God’s chosen people together;
iii. who will be sacrificed and eaten so that God’s people might be saved.
25. That is why John the Baptist baptized, to prepare them for the coming of Jesus;
a. who would call all people to that river
b. where they would discover that they belonged to God.
i. And thus, to wage peace rather than war
ii. To bring God’s people together
iii. Ant to sacrifice and work so that all people might be saved
1. was who they truly were.
26. The new Adoptee Rights Law will give thousands of New Yorker the opportunity to find out who their birthparents were and in that have a fuller picture about who they are.
27. And yet really no one needs a new law to ask that question
a. we all know what it is to ask who we truly are;
b. we ask it as individuals, as communities, as a nation and as a church.
28. So many of the questions surrounding the coming election
a. Are questions about what kind of people we Americans truly are;
29. So many of the questions surrounding the papacy of Pope Francis
a. Are questions about what kind of Church we Catholics truly are.
30. Asking the question is important
a. because the answer to that question will determine who we are
b. in relation to one another, and to the world.
31. For many that answer is still illusive; and thus, our fear continues.
a. But not for John; for him the answer was clear; hw would ask: ARE WE BAPTIZED?
i. Well then, to wage peace rather than war
ii. To bring people together rather than separate them by fear
iii. And to sacrifice and work so that all people might be saved
iv. IS who we are. Why? Because who we are is determined by whose we are.
v. And We belong to him; the Lamb of God.