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Baptism of the Lord

It’s very unusual for me to take the time to go to the movies. But this week, in a midst of a few days off, I was able to break away … and yup, just like the reported 1.1 million other people, I watched Spider-Man.

While I must confess that my childhood superhero was really to Batman, I think because back then I had a crush on Batgirl, Spider-man is a pretty good runner-up. The latest film, Spider-Man: No Way Home, is breaking all kinds of box office records and resonating with fans young and old. I think I know why …

Tom Holland’s consistently charming portrayal of Peter Parker picks up right where we left him in Far from Home. Doctored footage from a battle overseas exposed his identity as Spider-Man, and Peter must navigate finishing his senior year of high school with the eyes of every smartphone on him and every media outlet at his doorstep.

His friends suffer from their mere association with Peter, and the negative consequences befall his only living family member, Aunt May, played by Marisa Tomei. Aunt May, as both Peter’s legal guardian and director of the local homeless shelter, is Peter’s moral compass. She instructs him to always do good, even while carrying the burden of being misunderstood and facing the ire of others. “This is what we do,” she tells Peter, “We help people.”

In the movie, Peter takes on the daunting task of attempting to rehabilitate each adversary of their evil compulsions. No one is too far past atonement: “Everyone deserves a second chance,” Peter asserts.

… That brings us today to the Baptism of our Lord ... the reminder that everyone deserves a second chance … and when our ancestors turned their back on God … Jesus comes to save us.

Today we celebrate that even Jesus, like us in all things except sin, was baptized. The familiar story is a reminder in these first days of the new year that joining our baptism to Jesus always gives us a new beginning … if we are open and willing to work for it.

Deception, division, diversion, and discouragement are four strategies of Satan as he tries to prize us away from God … but baptism gives us goodness, grace, gathering and graciousness to live up to our prophetic calling.

There is a scene in the movie when despairing and humbled, Peter Parker’s comfort comes from the rallying of his friends who meet him in his sorrow. They call him out of himself and back to his mission of being a bringer of the good. “You have a gift. You have power,” … “And with great power, there must also come great responsibility.”

Most of our generation know this Spider-Man motto by heart. It sums up the entire ethos of who Spider-Man is. We all resonate with this call to step forward into greatness because we are literally made for such a task, to go out of ourselves and love responsibly, as a gift for others.

It’s the theme that I used in writing to our Confirmation candidates for this coming year. And it’s the theme that we focus on today … with great power comes great responsibility. We have been given great power, and now we have to live up to our responsibility.

Because … baptism is just the beginning of the story … it’s the realization of promises, God’s promise to us and our promise to God. That’s why when a family presents a child for baptism there is a process, because it’s the reminder and the assurance that this is not a 30-minute, magical ceremony ... one and done, No! Rather, it’s the public testimony that parents will do all in their power to raise the little one presented to know, love, model and serve Jesus in this world so as to prepare to meet him in the next.

The bulletin this week contains an interesting story about the important role of godparents. In fact, it reports that in one Italian diocese the bishop has suspended it because people presented for the role were not qualified, that is, not measuring up to the important role that a godparent plays in the life of faith of the little one. It serves as a good reminder to us all … we have to mean what we say and say what we mean, especially when we do so in faith.

As Peter Parker recommits himself to the good that Spider-Man will always work toward, so should we also “not grow weary in doing what is right” … our promise to God, even in the face of disappointment and failure. Jesus implored us not to despair in the face of earthly evil: “I am with you always, to the end of the age” God’s promise to us.

Spider-Man continues to resonate with each new generation because, just as with the Gospel challenge of Christ, we are all called, despite our faults and flaws, to be bringers of the good—to practice great love, coupled with great responsibility.

Let’s use this feast of the Baptism of the Lord to recommit ourselves to that. If we can be inspired from the themes of a movie, imagine how much more we can do for one another in real life …



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