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YEAR C: HOMILY FOR THE FEAST OF THE BAPTISM OF THE LORD
HOMILY THEME: HE WILL BAPTIZE YOU WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT AND WITH FIRE.
BY: Rev. Fr. Callistus Emenyonu, cmf
HOMILY: READINGS: Isaiah 40: 1-5, 9-11, Ps.104, Titus 2: 11-14; 3: 4-7, Luke 3: 15-16, 21-22
The feast of the baptism of the Lord brings the Christmas season to an end. Baptism is the beginning and first sacrament of initiation for people into Christianity. It makes us members of the Church and God’s household, Children of God and beneficiaries of the kingdom of God. Without baptism nobody can qualify to answer a Christian or belong to the family of God’s faithful and then salvation of that individual is as stake. This is why Jesus said that unless one is born again (by water and the Holy Spirit) he will not enter the kingdom of heaven. The feast of baptism brings us many teachings and resolves controversies over who should be baptized, who should baptize, kinds of baptism, where should one be baptized and how should baptism be done. It provides us with the answer to the question of whether biblically Jesus baptized anyone. (John 3: 24ff).
Since baptism is necessary for salvation and anyone who dies without baptism is in danger of hellfire one asks what happens to children who may die if they are left to be adults and understand baptism and whom they would follow? If adults who die without baptism are at risk of hellfire, same obviously is applicable to infants because they all inherited the sin of Adam (original sin); it is not only actual sin that condemns one so David in Psalm 51 (Miserere psalm) makes it clear when he said: In sin did my mother conceive me. This sin is enough to deny one salvation and beholding of the face of God. Since infants are culturally initiated into the community in naming ceremony and other cultural practices such as sacrificial meals, face marks, tattoos and oaths; why wouldn’t they be initiated into the Christian culture and tradition? Why wouldn’t they be included in Christian worship and faith? Did Jesus not warn his disciples who were sending children away from him to desist and did he not welcome and embrace them and said that their spirit stand before the presence of God?
The scripture made mention that while Jesus was baptising… but even if he was not seen baptising like John, he gave the disciples the permission to go into the whole world and proclaim the good news and baptise people. He actually gave the inevitable formula: Baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. So every baptism made by whosoever is made in his name and valid only in him (and the other persons of the Trinity). Those he gave the faculty to baptize are his followers (disciples and apostles). The priests and deacons today are the right ministers but extraordinarily all baptized can do so during necessity using same Trinitarian formula. The material for baptism is water and not River Jordan because it is not found in every country; it is about water not about sea or river. The use of water is sacramental; showing its life giving and cleansing power. So the place is not necessary but water is. Pastoral conditions can make some people who desire baptism not to have it and die under that condition of desire; in such cases, they have received baptism by desire spiritually. In the same vein, non- Christians who while professing faith in Christ and defending the Christian belief and teaching die, have received baptism by blood.
Beloved in Christ, it is very important that we all get baptised and try to renew the wows we made either as infants or adults during Holy Saturday and baptism of others when we are present as witnesses, parents or sponsors. It is not enough to do that orally but daily renewing our baptismal commitment by striving to be faithful to it. Baptism is not a vestment or clothes we wear but a life we live, a witness we profess and an attitude to exhibit daily at all circumstances. Baptism according to the spirit of the first reading comforts us that our sins are pardoned and that we have received double blessing from the hands of the Lord. In baptism, we straighten every valley and level every mountain made by sin in our lives as in the first reading. This is what makes the glory of the Lord to be revealed in our lives. This baptism is what St Paul in his letter to Titus called washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit which God poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ so that we might be justified by grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life.
Beloved, no matter who baptizes you it is Christ who does that. He is that Messiah of whom John the Baptist said he is mightier than he is and not worthy to undo his sandal’s strap. He will baptize us with the Holy Spirit and with fire. In baptism, he fills us with his Spirit and uses the flame of fire to burn off all taints of iniquities and sin. Beloved, at your baptism, the heavens opened and poured down blessings upon you and the Spirit of the Lord descended upon you. You are not ordinary but divine; the dove will still rest on you as long as you daily in your thoughts, words and deeds renew your baptismal commitments by the good life you live. God proclaims always about you from his holy heavens and says: You are my beloved son; with you I am well pleased. Try to live up to this expectation so that God can say this about you. This is what it means to be baptized and to be a Christian.
Beloved may this baptism of the Lord be a renewal of yours and infilling of his Spirit with fire. May God begin to delight in you as in his Son and straighten all crookedness of life in you. May the Lord send down his Spirit upon you so that you may be recreated, Amen.
Rev. Fr. Callistus Emenyonu, cmf