HOMILY FOR THE BAPTISM OF THE LORD, YEAR C (9/1/2022)

HOMILY FOR THE BAPTISM OF THE LORD, YEAR C (9/1/2022)

ISAIAH 40:1-5,9-11/PSALM 104:1B-4,24-25,27-30/TITUS 2:11-14; 3:4-7/LUKE 3:15-16,21-22

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Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai

THREE BENEFITS OF BAPTISM

The Baptism of the Lord marks the beginning of Christ’s public ministry. Anyone who wants to begin the Christian life must first of all be baptized. So sad, the theology of baptism has been bastardized in many generational churches today. Some ministers are basically concerned with prosperity gospels and riches not conversion and repentance. The Penny Catechism defines Baptism as a sacrament which cleanses us from original sin; makes us Christians; children of God and members of the Church. The implications of this definition are: 1. If we are not baptized we are not cleansed from original sin; 2. If we are not baptized, we are not yet Christians; 3. If we are not baptized, we are not yet members of the Church; 4. If we are not baptized; we are not yet children of God and God is not pleased with us. At the Lord’s baptism, the Bible says a voice spoke and said ‘this is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased’. Are you baptized? How faithful are you to your baptismal promises?

Today’s celebration affords us the opportunity to reflect on our baptism. We shall do this by looking at the three basic benefits of baptism.

Open Heavens: At the Lord’s baptism, heaven was opened. One of the benefits of Baptism is open heaven. An open heaven is something that was prophesied in Isaiah 64:1 it’s a prayer, a prophecy with an intercessory cry, where the prophet cries out “Oh that You would rend the heavens and come down”. To rend the heavens as in today’s psalm is to tear the Heaven open like a curtain. Therefore, open heaven indicates that all dualism is broken down – between God and humanity, between humanity and nature. It gives us free access to everything in heavenly realms. Every good child has free access to his father’s palace. Baptism brings about open heavens and the rain of God’s blessings; without baptism we are faced with closed heaven. 

Closed heaven is another way of saying there is a barrier between heaven and earth. It is when the “prince of the power of the air” has dominion and the power to suppress us from being able to connect with God and receive from Him. Therefore let us seek baptism and have an experience of open heaven, where the chains of darkness and sins are broken, where the door to other sacraments is open to us and by implication the door of salvation. Are you currently experiencing open heaven?

The Descent of the Holy Spirit: Another benefit of Baptism is the decent of the Holy Spirit. When Jesus was baptized the Holy Spirit descended on him in the form of a dove. At baptism we all receive the Holy Spirit which is later confirmed at the sacrament of confirmation. 1Cor.12:7-11 says through the Holy Spirit we receive spiritual gifts for common good. It is through these gifts of the Spirit that we are at our best. The Holy Spirit enables us to do good. Acts 10:38 tells us that “Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit and … he went about doing good” Again, Rom 8:26 tells us that the Spirit helps us in our weakness and it helps us to pray. Gal.5:22-23 the Holy Spirit gives us fruitfulness. The Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove. Dove in biblical parlance is a symbol of peace, a symbol of God’s presence, a symbol of messenger and a symbol of innocence. These go to show that after our baptism we should become carriers of God’s presence, his messengers, and his peaceful people. What kind of vessel are you?

The voice of God: At the Lord’s baptism a voice came from heaven. Another benefit of Baptism is that it enables you to hear God’s voice. Can you hear God’s voice? We live in a world of many voices and only one voice is reliable and unfailing. 1Cor. 14:10 there are many kinds of voices and none of them is without meaning. Today, the economy is talking, security is talking, politicians are talking, pastors are talking, Mummy G O is talking;  children are talking, parents are talking, family problems are talking, witches and wizard are talking yet only one voice is reliable, dependable and unchangeable and that is the voice of God.

In John10:27 Jesus says “…my sheep hears my voice and they follow me”. After baptism we enjoy the benefit of hearing God’s voice. The voice directs you as in Isaiah 30:21 saying “…Here is the road. Follow it”. Beloved, if you follow the voice of man; you shall wallow.  Gen. 16:2 Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarah and committed blunder. If you don’t want to wallow always listen to the voice of God through reading of the Scriptures and the Teaching office of the Church. The voice of the Lord is powerful, see Psalm 29:3-9. By the reason of that same voice may every obstacle in your life be broken! May the force against your baptismal promises be broken! And by the reason of God’s powerful voice may you be directed to salvation. Amen

LET US PRAY

Almighty ever-living God, who, when Christ had been baptized in the River Jordan and as the Holy Spirit descended upon him, solemnly declared him your beloved Son, grant that your children by adoption, reborn of water and the Holy Spirit, may always be well pleasing to you. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever.  Amen.      

 Fr Galadima Bitrus, (OSA)
BECOMING AND REMAINING GOD’S BELOVED/WELL PLEASING CHILD
Dear friends, we have celebrated Christmas and the new year has since begun. What a fitting point to celebrate the Feast of the baptism of the Lord, and indeed our own baptism which is an occasion to meditate on our becoming and remaining God’s beloved children in Christ and like Christ.
The three liturgical readings summarize what ought to be the life of a baptized person: 1) The life of a baptized person should be the life of one who has received the comforting good news of God’s forgiveness or pardon and is ready to straighten things up with the Lord, as the 1st Reading proclaims (Isa 40:1-5.9-11). 2) It should be a life of one who has received the grace of salvation and is being trained to renounce ungodliness and worldly desires, as the 2nd Reading teaches us (Titus 2:11-14; 3:4-7). 3) It ought to be a life of one reborn of water and Spirit (cf. Jn 3:3-6), adopted and declared by God a beloved child pleasing to him as we find in the Gospel reading (Lk 3:15-22).
The 1st Reading (Isa 40:1-5.9-11) is the introduction or prologue to Isaiah chs. 40-55, generally referred to as the book of consolation, also called second or Deutero-Isaiah. In the passage, the prophet proclaims God’s words of consolation to the Judeans and declares the end of their servitude, consequent upon the Lord having pardoned the sins of Jerusalem (40:1-2).
The period of the exile is understood as a period when the people’s leaving the land of Judah was preceded first by God’s leaving the land. In the same vein, the end of the exile is understood as a moment of the people’s return equally preceded first by God’s own return. Hence, the people are called upon to prepare for their return by first preparing for the Lord’s return, characterized as a clearing in the desert a road for the Lord and leveling in the wilderness a highway for our God (40:3-5).
Such proclamation of God’s return (40:1-2; cf. also 40:9-10) is then followed by an acknowledgment of human frailty and unreliability described with the metaphor of withering grass and fading flowers (40:6-7) vis-à-vis divine faithfulness (40:8) and tenderness described in terms of a shepherd who pastures his flock, gathers the lambs, carries them in his bosom and gently drives the mother sheep (40:11).
This clearly shows how God’s forgiveness comes to us as grace, not merit. God, therefore, calls us to work in the grace of the forgiveness he has already offered us even while we were still sinners. As St. Paul classically puts it, “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly…God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Rom 5:6.8).
In the 2nd Reading (Titus 2:11-14; 3:4-7), the author of the pastoral epistle similarly expresses the understanding that salvation (“sōtḗrios”) is not something merited but something that comes about when “the grace of God” (“cháris toȗ Theoȗ”) appears (2:11). The Greek term for grace used here is “cháris”, from which comes the English “charity” which literally means an act of favour, a gesture of love. It is this grace that educates, instructs or trains us (“paideúousa hēmâs”) to renounce that which is ungodly (“tḗn asébeian”) and worldly desires (“kosmikàs epithumías”) (2:12).
In other words, God instructs, educates or trains us for righteousness by showing us love. His love becomes the starting point of our journey away from distant lands and humiliating conditions of ungodliness and worldliness, as the prodigal son soon realized (cf. Lk 15:11-32), in order to return to the father’s house where we have known, tasted and seen the dignity of being beloved children of a merciful and ever-loving father.
That baptism came to be understood as a means of bringing about the appearance of God’s grace can be seen in 3:4-5 where the author writes: “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to mercy, through the washing of rebirth (dia loutroȗ paliggenesías) and renewal of the Holy Spirit (“anakainôseōs pneúmatos hagíou”).
Baptism, therefore, represents that moment when God calls us not because we are holy but to make us holy by introducing us to a life of grace in Christ, and by teaching us the truth of Christ and showing us the way of Christ (cf. Jn 14:6).
The Gospel Reading (Lk 3:15-16.21-22) is the account of the baptism of Jesus, situated within the context of John’s proclamation of the good news to the people (cf. 3:18), a major part of which was the imparting of grace through baptism. We are told that Jesus also came to be baptized, in the course of which the heavens opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him like a dove would, and a voice from heaven acclaimed: “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased” (3:21-22).
Here the implication becomes even clearer that baptism is, above all, a manifestation of God’s grace to humanity, a demonstration of love as fundamentally God’s “modus operandi” in his dealing with humanity: sinners are forgiven and reconciled to God; God confirms his paternity of us by the outpouring of his Spirit upon us, and through Jesus, he acclaims us his beloved children. The descent of the Holy Spirit upon us, therefore, has been for long rightly termed a “confirmation” of the grace of baptism, almost like the result of a DNA test confirming that God is indeed our father; we have shown to be truly carrying his genes.
Thus, Jesus could not have been missing in this theological scene, that place and moment of manifestation of God as our father and we, his children, that occasion when the heavens open as if to embrace the earth in warm welcome back home, that point at which love is proclaimed in the most explicit way possible: “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased” (3:22).
The baptism of Jesus which we celebrate today, therefore, teaches us to rebuild our relationship with God and with one another on the foundations of gratuitous love, which is the method of divine pedagogy, God’s way of instructing, teaching or training us unto righteousness. In gratuitous love, we treat each other profoundly aware that we are fundamentally related as a father would his son.
Despite our shortcomings, in Jesus God is not ashamed to call us his children and Jesus is not ashamed to call us his brothers and sisters (cf. Heb 2:11). May we too glory in calling and conducting ourselves as beloved children in whom God our beloved father is well pleased, and brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ, God’s beloved and well pleasing Son!

Fr. Paul Oredipe

Renewal of Faith in the New Life in Baptism 

Last week, we celebrated the feast of the Epiphany – the manifestation of the Lord as the salvation of all nations, all races, all cultures, all peoples, indeed the whole world.  This is the last Sunday of the Christmas Season and the First Sunday of Ordinary time. 

Today, we celebrate the Baptism of Jesus, the first public event in his life.  Jesus was baptized.  Is it not odd and confusing that the Savior was baptized?  Why did He allow Himself to be baptized, even when there was hesitation and protestation from John the Baptist himself?  Does He need any baptism at all?  Is it not John himself who should be baptized by Jesus?  Why in the name of heaven should Jesus, the Perfect Man, the True God, also receive baptism?  How could He do that? 

The answers to these questions are in the Bible itself. 

As the Son of God and God himself, Jesus could never have any sins that He would have had to renounce or repent of them.  That He submitted to the baptism of John, there must have been a reason or reasons behind it. 

1.  Identification with us: 
That is the first message of this baptism: that Jesus identifies with us in our condition, in solidarity with all human beings.  The Lord desired to be baptized, says St. Augustine, so that he might freely proclaim through his humility what for us was to be a necessity. (Sermon, 51, 33)  As St. Paul says: “For our sake God made him who did not know sin, to be sin, so that in him we might become the very holiness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21).  The baptism of Jesus was therefore appropriate because in this way He was accepting his mission as God’s suffering servant who would take our sins upon himself, and die for us on the cross.
There are other messages and explanations. 

2.  Sanctification of water 
But when Jesus went into the water of the river Jordan to be baptized by John, God, you might say, washed Himself into that water.  At that very moment, that water became Sanctified water, Holy water, even ‘Divinised water’.  Consequently, the sanctification of the river Jordan at the Baptism of Jesus must somehow have passed into all other waters everywhere.  As a result of this, all those waters have been empowered to bring sanctification to all who are washed in them in the name of Jesus.  

This is what happened at Christian baptism: with the invocation of the name of the Blessed Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), the salvific and sanctifying power that was bestowed on water 2020 years ago by the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan, is released to cleanse and sanctify us; something that could not happen before Jesus had Himself been washed in the Jordan and before He instituted the Sacrament of Baptism. 
  
3.  Vindication – Approval by God: 
 “You are my Son, the Beloved! my favour rests on you”  What more evidence do we need to know who Jesus is, to follow Him?  The Father Himself gave confirmation to the person and mission of the Son and the Holy Spirit was also at work.  The Father testifies to the Son.  If only we follow the voice “Listen to him”. 
  
4.  Beginning – Anticipation of Baptism of death: 
In His baptism, Jesus also looked forward to the baptism that He would undergo on the cross.  “I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how I am constrained until it is accomplished” (Lk. 12:50)  So this baptism of Jesus points to that other baptism of his passion, crucifixion and death on the cross. 

The one from John is an anticipation, foreshadowment of the bloody baptism which is the torment of humiliation which Isaiah predicted for God’s servant.  Even at the outset of his mission, Jesus was ready for his passion and death.  In love and obedience He submitted to the Father’s will, and as He accepted the baptism of water, so he would accept the baptism of death that saved us from our sins (Mark 10: 38, 45). 
  
5.  Origin – Model of our Baptism: 
The Baptism of Jesus is also a model for our own.  In Baptism we are joined to Jesus, and share in His death and resurrection.  We must die in order to live.  We descend into the water with Jesus and rise with Him so that we can live a new life free from sin.  Just as the Spirit came down on Jesus, so He descends on us at our baptism, and the Father tells us that we too are his beloved children in whom He delights.  The Spirit that empowered Jesus to make his new beginning is the same Spirit that empowered us in our baptism. 

To be baptized is to be Christened, which means to be made like Christ.  The Sacrament, however, only begins this.  It is like the planting of a seed.  It will take a lifetime for this seed to grow and ripen, for the image of Christ to be formed in us. 

This year, 2022, is another opportunity to grow, to produce fruits worthy of God. 

Brothers and sisters, the Lord is patient with us.  He has given us time for our use and benefit.  How are we using these gracious opportunities?  Do we let fear and anxiety extinguish the light of Christ in us?  We have not received the Spirit of slavery or timidity but the Spirit of adoption enabling us to cry out “Abba, Father” (Rom. 8:15). 

At His Baptism, Christ was empowered by the Holy Spirit.  We too have been given this great gift.  How are we disposed to let it work?  The Holy Spirit is a power that transforms us interiorly, that stimulates man’s thirst for spiritual growth.  It is a power of conviction, of cleansing the heart and of strengthening the will. 

By Baptism we, too, have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us.  Still, our baptism is not the only time we are empowered by the Spirit.  The great medieval theologian, Thomas Aquinas, spoke of “new sending in the Spirit”, times of grace when God enlivens people in special ways for different tasks.  The Spirit does not retire at our baptism; He is not shy about helping adults.  We should all pray for the sending of the Spirit, particularly when we face change and important decisions. 

On this feast of our Lord’s Baptism, which is also our feast, let us renew our faith in the new life we received in Baptism.  Let us be constantly in touch with the Holy Spirit (God’s remote control) who will replace the tension within us with a holy relaxation; who will replace the anxiety within us with a quiet conscience; who will replace the bitterness within us with the sweetness of grace; and who will replace the coldness within us with a loving warmth. 

Let us today with Jesus renew our baptismal commitment to bear witness to the Good News of the kingdom of God in word and in deeds. 

            Let us pray: 

“Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful;  And enkindle in them the fire of your love.  Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created; And you shall renew the face of the earth. 
O God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit instructed the heart of the faithful, grant that in the same Spirit, we may be truly wise and ever rejoice in His divine consolation.  Through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen 

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Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai is a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Auchi, Edo State, Nigeria. He was ordained October 20th, 2018. He offers his daily homilies, talks and articles that bother on, faith, theology, morals and many other burning issues in religion and politics. Fr. Daniel writes poems, inspirational quotes and clips.

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