YEAR B: HOMILY FOR THE FEAST OF THE BAPTISM OF THE LORD
HOMILY THEME: THE BAPTISM OF THE LORD
BY: Fr Sanctus Mario
HOMILY: *Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7, Acts 10:34-38, Mark 1:7-11*
*How pleased is God with Us?*
A man narrated his experience when he was living the life of a drunkard. He said no day passes that He won’t take at least eight bottles of alcohol. This continued until he went for a party one day. Because everything was served in excess, he drank to stupor. He challenged someone that he would finish one crate which is 12 bottles, and he did that.
While going home that night, according to him, he forgot the road to his house. He wandered until he found himself in a deserted place. He could no longer explain what happened to Him later but was awoken by people who were shouting at him “is this where you slept, Peter? What if something happens to you? How will your family be pleased with this kind of life? It is time to put your life in order before something worse happens to you”. He went home thinking about these words. He said that these words became a changing point in his life.
The baptism of the Lord also challenges us to put our life in order and return to God. What will the voice from heaven who says of Jesus that He is the one He is well pleased also say of us? How pleased is God with who we are and the type of life we are living?
The Christmas season comes to an end with the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. We can see today as the second epiphany of the Lord. In the feast of Epiphany last Sunday, God reveals Jesus to the gentiles, which in essence means God’s self-revelation to the whole world. Today, God reveals who Jesus is to the Jewish world and us. Unlike last Sunday, where God led the three wise men to Jesus through the star, today, He directly confirms Jesus’ identity. In essence, we do not need to doubt the truth about Jesus and His origin.
*A Little Background*
Baptism did not begin with Christians. Before the advent of Jesus, the jews used baptism for ceremonial washing and cleansing of the gentile proselytes. The proselytes are Gentiles who convert to Judaism and follow their doctrines. When a gentile embraces the Jewish religion, he/she goes through a ritual cleansing. So the jews had this traditional belief that only the gentiles who embrace the Jewish religion needed the baptism of repentance. The jews believe that they are already God’s chosen people and hence a holy nation. John takes this baptism and applies it to the jews as a way to prepare for the coming of the Messiah. In essence, it is not only the gentiles that need cleansing but the jews too. His is a baptism of repentance. So Jesus taking this baptism today certifies the need for our own baptism and repentance of sins.
Secondly, by accepting baptism, Jesus reveals his mission to the world. Since the baptism of John is that of repentance and people go there confessing their sins and baptised by him (Mathew 3:6), Jesus accepting baptism shows He has come to become one with sinners and to call them to repentance. He underscores the need for our repentance of sins and baptism in order also to become one with Jesus. John says of Him, that He who is to come will baptise with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit does not dwell in sin. He dwells in the heart longing for God, the heart that is pure and clean. Hence we have to purify our hearts for God to be worthy of this divine indwelling.
*The Voice From Heaven*
All these while, the jews have been undergoing the baptism of John to make themselves ready for the Messiah and to prepare His way as John has been preaching. So at Jesus’ baptism, in the presence of these people, the Voice from heaven confirms who Jesus is.
The voice says “this is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased”. This confirms Jesus’ identity and origin. It is a pointer that though He is born in the line of David, his origin is not human. Hence, He is different from other founders of different religions. He is the one whose life, gladdens the heart of God. In essence, if we accept Him, we also become the beloved of the Father.
This confirms the prophecy of the first reading “Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, upon whom I have put my spirit”. So the voice today officially fulfilled the old testament prophecies and announced no other person, other than Jesus as the Messiah.
1. Today marks a very important event in the life of Jesus as it marks officially the inauguration of His public ministry. This also indicates baptism as a very important event in our own lives as Christians. It sanctifies us and inaugurates us into the kingdom as adopted children of God and gives us new life. Hence this reminds us to remember our baptismal promises and live a life that pleases God.
2. Immediately after the baptism, the gospel says that the heaven was torn apart and the Spirit like a dove descended on Him. The Spirit hovered once over the waters at the beginning of creation and today, He hovered again over the water of baptism, the water of Jordan. This then is a sign that a new creation is ushering in. Hence the sacrament of baptism recreates us and makes us new creatures.
This did not happen before the baptism or during the baptism but immediately after the baptism. Hence the next thing that awaits us when we are born again and relieved from the bondage of sin is the indwelling of the power of God. then we make our hearts pure and the abode of the Holy Trinity.
3. Jesus’ submission to baptism by John is a sign of humility of the highest order. He is God and does not need baptism but He did. He is mightier than John, yet He submitted to John’s baptism. Hence Jesus teaches to humbly submit our lives to God. When we humble and empty ourselves before God, we thus recognise our weaknesses, sins and failings, we begin to understand our inadequacies and nothingness before God. Hence we become God’s beloved and the abode of the Trinity. We need to come down and open our hearts before God because we are nothing before Him.
4. So the question we have to ask today is “how pleased is God with the type of life we are living? Like the story above, what if anything happens to us? What will be our fate? It is also time to put ourselves in order and humbly seek God’s face. When we repent and change from our atrocities, we give God the chance to wholesomely dwell in us. It is time to live a life that pleases God again.
May God bless you dearest and give us the grace to change for good. May He continue to be with us. Amen
*Fr Sanctus Mario*