HOMILY FOR FEAST OF THE BAPTISM OF THE LORD.
THEME: Our Dignity, Challenge and Mission
BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Diocese of Novaliches.
HOMILY FOR JANUARY 9.
In Baptism, we have become children of God. What an infinitely great dignity! St. John was very clear and sure of this: “See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called children of God. Yet so we are… Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed” (1Jn 3:1-2). This Sunday, as we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, let us also think about the Baptism we received.
First, let us take a look at the Baptism of the Lord. Why did Jesus ask to be baptized by John in the Jordan? Definitely, he has no need of baptism, for he is sinless. He is the all-holy God. But he received baptism as an expression of his humble obedience to the Father and also as public proclamation of his mission as Messiah, God’s Chosen One. In other words, in receiving baptism, he had in mind the welfare of all his followers. St. Augustine puts it, “The Lord desired to be baptized so that he may freely proclaim through his humility what for us was to be a necessity” (Sermon 51, 33).
He was baptized for our sake for he knew so well that we need it. In his sermon St. Maximus of Turin said: “Christ is baptized, not to be made holy by the water, but to make the water holy, and by his cleansing to purify the waters which he touched…For when the Savior is washed, all water for our baptism is made clean, purified at its source for the dispensing of baptismal grace to the people of future ages. Christ is the first to be baptized, then, so that Christians will follow after him with confidence” (Ofc. of Readings, vol 1, p. 612).
RELATED: REFLECTION FOR THE SOLEMNITY OF EPIPHANY
The Sacrament of Baptism is necessary for our salvation. Jesus made this clear when he told Nicodemus: “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of flesh is flesh and what is born of spirit is spirit” (Jn 3:5-6). Finally, at his Ascension, he left this command to his disciples: “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt 28:18-20).
As we call to mind our own Baptism, our hearts should be filled with joy for such an infinitely great gift of God to us. The Catechism of the Catholic Church quoted the words of St. Gregory Nazianzen in describing this sacrament: “Baptism is God’s most beautiful and magnificent gift… We call it gift, grace, anointing, enlightenment, garment of immortality, bath of rebirth, seal, and most precious gift. It is called ‘gift’ because it is conferred on those who bring nothing of their own; ‘grace’ since it is given even to the guilty; ‘baptism’ because sin is buried in the water; ‘anointing’ for it is priestly and royal as are those who are anointed; ‘enlightenment’ because it radiates light; ‘clothing’ since it veils our shame; ‘bath’ because it washes; and ‘seal’ as it is our guard and the sign of God’s Lordship” (CCC #1216).
This great and wonderful gift by God, however, imposes on us a big challenge. Pope St. Leo the Great said, “Thanks to the Sacrament of Baptism you have been turned into a temple of the Holy Spirit. Don’t let it ever happen that you drive away so noble a guest by your evil deeds, or ever again submit to the power of the demon: for the price you were bought with is the blood of Christ” (Christmas Homily, 3).
In Baptism, we have become temple of the Holy Spirit. God resides in the innermost core of our being. And so we are able to cry out to God, “Abba, Father!” (Gal 4:6). Upon coming out of the water, the Spirit of God hovered over Jesus and the voice of the Father was heard: “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased” (Mt 3:17). These are the same words uttered by the heavenly Father when we emerged from the waters of Baptism: “These are my beloved children.” We must, therefore, live as His children, always pleasing in His sight.
Moreover, Baptism also gives us a very important mission to fulfill. It impels us to work for genuine respect for and unity with our brothers and sisters. St. Paul wrote to the Galatians: “For all of you who are baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (3:27- 28).
Being baptized is such a great gift from God. It gives us the highest dignity – we have become God’s children. But it also gives us the greatest lifelong challenge – we have to live up to this dignity. Our whole lives should be conformed to that of Christ. And it also gives us a very important mission – to welcome and reach out to one another for we are all brothers and sisters. Let this Sunday’s feast open our eyes and transform our hearts as we pray: “Lord Jesus, make our hearts like unto yours. Amen.”
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Diocese of Novaliches
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