Fr. Ben’s homily for Feast of the Baptism of the Lord
Theme: THE 1ST MYSTERY OF LIGHT!
By: Ben Agbo (Rev Fr)
Homily for Sunday January 9 2022
*Is 42:1-7, Act 10: 34-38, Lk 3:15-22.
The 1st Mystery of Light (introduced since the time of Pope St John Paul II) unveils the mystery of the Baptism of our Lord as a Holy Ghost Baptism different from the baptism of John – baptism of repentance. The 2nd reading makes it clear that God had anointed Jesus Christ with the Holy Spirit and with power and because God was with him, he went about doing good; turning water into wine at the marriage feast in Cana (2nd Mystery of Light), preaching vociferously about the kingdom of God (3rd mystery of Light), the miracle of transfiguration (4th mystery of light), the institution of the Eucharist (5th mystery of Light), then his suffering, death and resurrection followed.
It is important to note at this very beginning that Jesus’ redemptive ministry started immediately after his baptism. The gospel recorded that after his baptism, while he was at prayer, heaven opened and he received confirmation: ‘You are my Beloved Son; my favour rests on you’. We all need this kind of spiritual confirmation of our sonship, Gal 4 : 7.
B. POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
There is a demonstration of the Trinity at the beginning of Christ’s Baptism: (i) Voice of the Father. (ii) Physical presence of the Son. (iii) Impartation of the Holy Spirit in form of a dove.
*Dove was the most innocent of all the birds. See Noah’s dove, Gen 8: 8.
The secret power behind Jesus’ ministry is the power of the Holy Spirit that descended upon him after baptism and his continued fellowship in prayer with the Holy Spirit. According to Benny Hiln: ‘The reason why the Church and so many people have become so defeated is that it has ignored the most powerful person in the universe – the Holy Spirit’. He makes an analogy of the Trinitarian communion using the electricity as example: (i) By the command of God; electrical connections are made. (ii) By the action of Jesus; switch is put on. (iii) By the power of the Holy Spirit; light glows in the filament.
*Note that this is not a theologically perfect description of the Trinitarian pericoresis (communion) but a vague analogy. He also refers to 3 levels of Anointing: (i) The leper’s Anointing, Lev 14 – This level has to do with the forgiveness of sin /salvation and we attain it by accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. (ii) The priestly Anointing, Act 2 – Here we receive anointing for vocational service (charisma) and ministry and we attain this by fellowship with Jesus. (iii) The kingly Anointing, Act 1:8 – Here we exercise authority over evil spirits and we attain this by obeying Jesus and exercising our faith more fervently.
When the Holy Spirit came to Moses, plagues came upon Egypt, Ex 7, 8, 9 & 10. – When it came over Elijah, fire came down from heaven, 1Kg 18. – When it came over Joshua, the whole city of Jericho fell into his hands, Josh 6. – When it came over Jesus at his baptism, he began teaching and healing. He suffered on the cross and rose again. – After the pentecost, the same Holy Spirit has come to descend upon his faithful followers. – It is the same Holy Spirit in operation in Martyrs (eg St Stephen), Missionaries, Married Couples who persevere in fidelity till the end, Monks in the desert, in the Sacraments (especially Eucharist), in Catholic Priests (making them remain celebrates all their life). He consoles us in moments of loss and disasters, Rom 5 :1-3, and also operates in pious societies like the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Legion of Mary, Charismatic Renewal Movement, etc. According to Vima Dasan: ‘Whenever the Holy Spirit comes into any believer, he makes Christ dearer, heaven nearer and the Word of God clearer’.
C. BAPTISM OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
The problem of our modern day practice of sacramental baptism in many of our Churches, especially Infant Baptism, is the seeming lack of sufficient emphasis on transformation/ regeneration. Let’s take note of the following points:
(i) The Baptism of the Holy Spirit is a baptism of transformation and fire is the natural symbol of this change /transformation. In today’s gospel, as soon as the people began thinking that John might be the Messiah (Christ), John declares: ‘I baptize you with water, but someone is coming… He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire’.
(ii) John was an affectionate, practical, evangelical, popular and copious preacher. Yet, he didn’t fail to direct people to Christ (He preached repentance not prosperity). Look at our crusade and adoration grounds (or any where that big number of Christians gather nowadays) and compare the preaching we hear there with what John did. We hear nothing but empty one sided promises of favour from God with little or no indictment on the need to change their ways.
(iii) When we press duty upon people, we must direct them to Christ, both for righteousness and strength (grace), Jn 1:17 – The law came through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
(iv) A fervent prayer life must accompany the Sacraments of Baptism. What was promised to Christ was obtained through prayer. When he prayed, the heaven opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him like a dove.
God does not have favourites as the 1st reading acclaimed. We should stop deceiving ourselves that once we become Christians or join a particular denomination, we automatically become God’s favourites. His Spirit operates wherever he sees faith, hope and love, 1 Jn 4 : 12. As God’s voice confirmed that Jesus was his beloved son, may God confirm us as his sons this year by manifesting his power more clearly in our lives.
We only need to learn to obey Jesus more and more through an avid study of the scriptures, listening to the Church and exercising our faith more practically, Mk 16 :18. Unless our baptism becomes a baptism of transformation (fire), Christianity remains not different from mere social club.
*When we walk with the Lord in the light of his ways, what a glory he sheds on our way. While we do His good will, he abides with us still, And with all who will trust and obey. Happy Sunday dear friends!