Homily - Homily for the BAPTISM OF THE LORD - Fr. Lubem, osj

13 January 2019 

Homily for the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord Sunday Year C. 13-01-2019 by Fr. Lubem, osj.
First Reading: Isaiah 40:1-5. 9-11
Psalm: Psalm 104:1-2.3-4. 24-25. 27-28. 29-30
Second Reading: Titus 2:11-14; 3:4-7
Gospel: Luke 3:15-16. 21-22

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Baptism from the Greek verb Baptizein means to plunge or immerse. The plunging into water symbolizes the catechumen’s burial into Christ’s death, from which he rises up by resurrection with him as “a new creature.” For us Christians in the Catholic Church, Baptism is a sacrament which cleanses us from original sin, makes us Christians, children of God and members of the Church. So basically, it is the first of the sacraments of Christian initiation, and as a matter of fact the primordial or foundational sacrament. That is why baptism is called vitae spiritualis ianua the gateway to life in the spirit, and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. According to the fourth century father of the Church, St. Gregory Nazianzen, ‘Baptism is God’s most beautiful and magnificent gift. It is called a gift because it is conferred on those who bring nothing of their own. It is called grace since it is given even to the guilty.’ But at baptism, the Holy Spirit draws us out of this fallen world into the new world of the Trinity. So baptism is also the primordial grace whence we find the fulfilment of the words of Christ in John 15:16 – ‘you did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.’
One may therefore wonder why Christ came to be baptized when obviously as the Son of God He was without sin? Christ came to be baptized so as to identify with us sinners, whom He came to redeem, by showing us the way to follow. He wants us all to be baptized like Him, so that we can receive the right of adoption as Sons and daughters of God and obtain salvation. By submitting Himself for baptism, Jesus also brought to fulfilment the words of the prophecy of Isaiah in the first reading about The Servant of Yahweh, that at His coming, ‘the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’ So, Christ’s baptism which is the first of the five key moments of His life, becomes the official inauguration of the Public Ministry of Jesus, and this was witnessed to by the Father and the Holy Spirit. So the Trinity was present at this key moment as found in the synoptics.
However, there are two points that are particular to Luke. First, Luke records that Jesus is baptized ‘with all the people’ as one of them in their midst. He wants us to see that right from the start Jesus sides with sinners, welcoming them in order to save them from the slavery of sin. Secondly, he stresses that it was while Jesus was praying that He received the Holy Spirit descending upon Him as a dove and the voice of the Father is heard. Why does Jesus pray? Jesus prayed so that He can discover the will of the Father and discern from Him how to go about His public ministry. How about us? Do we imitate the example set before us by Christ? Christ is the Son of God, and He always called on God His father in prayer, for help and direction. We too by our baptism have become the adopted Sons and Daughters of God, and that is why we can call Him ‘Abba - Father’. But how many of us remember to call on Him in prayer before embarking on our undertakings? The only way we can succeed to the end is to call on Him always and remain in constant communion with Him.
As we celebrate the baptism of the Lord today, we have officially come to the end of Christmastide too, and by tomorrow we shall begin the ordinary season of the year that shall run for 34 weeks. It means that all our Christmas decorations and the crib will now be removed from public display. As we remove them, Christ wants us to build for Him new and better cribs, and put on better Christmas decorations for Him too in our hearts and minds, so that we can begin to think like Him, love like Him, and live lives worthy of our calling as God’s own sons and daughters. And by this we will continue to make His presence known and felt in the world now and forever. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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