Consecrated to the Heart of the Redeemer under the patronage of the Theotokos and Fr. Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J.

11 January 2015

The Tonight Show and The Baptism of the Lord

While Johnny Carson may remain for many the all-time favorite host of The Tonight Show, I am also fond of the newest host, Jimmy Fallon. He has a whimsical, self-effacing wit, and embraces technology in his skits. He fits in with the younger generation [although, after the first Mass, an older woman came up to me, put her arm on my shoulder, and said, "I like Jimmy Fallon, too" and walked along--which made the day]. Whatever shoes he's had to fill, he seems content to be himself.
Just the other night Jimmy was interviewing actress Nicole Kidman. He recalled that they had met ten years before. On that occasion, a friend of Jimmy called him to say that he wanted to bring Nicole Kidman by his apartment.

Jimmy later realized, and Nicole affirmed, that it was a set-up date, and he’d given her a rather bland reception: playing video games, not talking much. Nicole then revealed that she had been romantically interested in Jimmy, but he was clueless about it! Imagine: he could have been Mr. Nicole Kidman—if he wasn’t so—aargh! The whole interview unraveled rather humorously after that admission, but they took it in stride. Although the awkwardness of the past could not be erased or redone, the interview opened the door to a new perspective in friendship.

Many times in life we recognize a choice before us, and many times there doesn’t seem to be a choice. In that instant when Jimmy realized the opportunity he’d missed, the audience also could see the present outcome, where both are happily married with children.

After watching the interview I wondered whether there were any times I was simply unaware of others’ intentions about me, and how things might have been different, especially if I had handled them better. But that practice is a kind of spiritual and emotional quicksand. My thoughts needed to turn to a more productive and worthwhile theme: the mysterious workings of God’s Providence, which aims to reinforce within each of us our fundamental identity as God’s beloved son or daughter.

That’s what Baptism does for us: makes us children of God, heirs of heaven, temples of the Holy Spirit, and members of Christ’s Mystical Body, the Church. It frees us from the Original Sin and, in the case of adults, from any personal sins we have committed. Baptism confers upon us a new identity and a new mission, leaving behind the way that leads to death. Though, like Jimmy with Nicole, we may be unaware of God’s loving intentions for us, through Baptism He inaugurates for us the strange and wonderful journey that is discipleship, where, though we participate freely, there is always Another Hand at work.

Along our life’s course we will stray, we will miss the mark, we will sin. Not just instances of wry regret like the way that Jimmy Fallon initially regarded Nicole Kidman, but snubs of the most meaningful relationships of our lives: intentional choices against God’s commandments to love Him above all things and our neighbor as ourselves. But no sinful choice that we ever make will erase our splendid identity as God’s beloved, made for communion with Him. That’s not to say that we can’t reject that communion or don’t need to repair it; but, even if we rejected it completely, we’d still have been made for it, which would add all the more to the frustration that is hell.

But God the Son fully identified Himself with the human race by becoming man and submitting Himself to the baptismal waters. He knew and owned His identity as the Father’s Beloved and the Savior of mankind. Through Baptism He invites all to receive that dignity and to walk in that dignity each day. In view of that wise and loving plan, God will use even our sins and our missed chances for His glory and for the good of all. Though much of life may cause real and deserved shame, God allows us to participate in our redemption and renewal.

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