Homily for the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord
Theme: JESUS IDENTIFIES WITH US
By: Rev Fr Gerald Muoka
Homily for Sunday January 9 2022
R1 – Is 42:1-7
R2 – Acts 10:34-38
GOSPEL- Lk 3:15-22
When leprosy broke out among the people of the Hawaiian Islands in the middle of the 19th Century, the government authorities responded by establishing a leper colony on the remote island of Molokai. The victims were snatched by force from their families and sent to this island to perish. However, moved by their terrible plight, a young Belgian priest, Saint Damien De Veuster, asked permission from his superiors to minister to them. Straightaway he realized that there was only one effective way to do this, and that was to go and live among them. Having got permission, he went to Molokai. At first, he tried to minister to the lepers while maintaining a certain distance. But he soon realized that he had to live among them in order to gain their trust. As a result he contracted leprosy himself. The reaction of the lepers was immediate and wholehearted. They embraced him and took him to their hearts. He was now one of them. There was no need, no point any more, in keeping his distance. The lepers had someone who could talk with authority about leprosy, about brokenness, about rejection and public shame.
Beloved in Christ, today is the Baptism of the Lord. At the heart of this Solemnity is Jesus’ identification with us humans, in solidarity to give us new life. He who shares in our humanity, equally desires to share, identify and encourage us in our baptismal cleansing, not because he has a share in the original and actual sins, rather, inorder to share in our brokenness, rejections and public shame wrought by the leprosy of original and actual sins; and like St Damian at the introit story who identified and lived with the lepers of Hawaiian Lepers Colony, Jesus, by receiving the baptism of repentance, became identified with the sinners whom He had come to save
The Baptism of Jesus, manifests the moment the heavens reveals a fresh flash of the realization of Who, and Whose, He really was (His identity) and of what He was supposed to do (His mission) as we see in the Gospel reading, “This is my beloved Son in whom I’m well pleased.”
The baptism of Jesus Christ is the occasion of the first public revelation of all the Three Persons in the Holy Trinity, and the official revelation of Jesus as the Son of God to the world by God the Father. Hence, it is described by all four Gospels. This baptism marks the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry.
Consequently, at baptism, we Christians, are bathed and cleansed with water to realise our true identity as sons and daughters of the King (Heb 12:23), of whose we are, and call _Abba father_ (Gal 4:6), as true heirs of the Kingdom of God.
Fr Munachi Ezeogu, on describing baptism, used the acronyms of eating the baptismal *R-I-C-E* , which defines baptism as a rite of:
(i) R= _Rebirth_ ,
(ii) I = _Initiation_ ,
(iii) C = _Commitment_
(iv) E = _Empowerment_
Chiefly, for living out the demands of the Christian life; which is identified by righteousness and uprightness. However, Isaiah, in the first reading, describes the baptismal R-I-C-E as a free meal for all.
*BAPTISM OF JESUS MARKS A TURNING POINT IN HIS LIFE AND MINISTRY*
Jesus’ baptism by John was a spectacular event that is symbolic and of great importance in the Life and Ministry of Jesus.
An author once remarked that the Baptism of Jesus became a turning point in his entire life and mission. Infact, it became a Divine rite that manifested the explosion of special moments in His Life and Ministry, viz:
(1) _MOMENT OF IDENTIFICATION_
(2) _MOMENT OF CONVICTION_
(3) _MOMENT OF EQUIPMENTS_
(4) _MOMENT OF DECISION_
(5) _MOMENT OF APPROVAL_
*(1)MOMENT OF IDENTIFICATION*
First and foremost, Jesus’ baptism was a moment of identification with us sinners. The Scripture describes Him as a Sinless Messiah, “Christ suffered and died for sins once for all. He never sinned and yet He died for us who have sinned” (1Pet 2:18); yet Jesus received the baptism of John, to identify with his people, who realized for the first time that they were sinners.
*(2) MOMENT OF CONVICTION*
The Baptism of Jesus was indeed a moment of conviction about His identity and mission: “He is the Son of God and His mission was to preach the Good News of repentance. Thus, fulfilling the words of the Scriptures, “This is My beloved Son, I have begotten you this day” (Ps 2:17), and the conviction that Jesus is the suffering servant revealed in the prophecy of Isaiah, “with whom I am well pleased,” (Isaiah 42:1); pointing to Jesus’ mission of atoning for the sins of the world by His suffering and death on the cross.
*(3) MOMENT OF EQUIPMENTS*
The Baptism of Jesus Christ became a moment of equipments for the mission of redemption.
The Holy Spirit equipped Jesus by descending on him in the form of aa dove, giving him the power of preaching and healing. This Divine gesture fulfilled the scriptural injunction of Zechariah 4:6, “Not by might, not by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.”
*(4) MOMENT OF DECISION*
The Baptism of Jesus Christ was a great moment of Decision-Making. Jesus, after His baptism, made a resolve to begin His public ministry at the most opportune time after receiving the approval of his Heavenly Father as His beloved Son.
*(5) MOMENT OF APPROVAL*
The baptism of the Lord was a salient moment of Divine approval. Jesus might have been waiting for a signal of approval from his Heavenly Father, and during his baptism Jesus got this approval of Himself as the Father’s “beloved Son.” It was indeed a confirmation that backed Him to break limits in His public and pastoral ministry.
(i) *THE BAPTISM OF JESUS REMINDS US OF OUR IDENTITY.*
It reminds us of who we are and Whose we are. By Baptism we become sons and daughters of God, brothers and sisters of Jesus, members of his Church, heirs of Heaven, and temples of the Holy Spirit.
(ii) *YOU ARE A ROYAL BREED- (God’s beloved)*
The Baptism of Jesus Christ, which we partake in, reveals we have been anointed by the Holy Spirit as a chosen race and royal generation (1Pet 2:5); incorporated into Christ who is anointed priest, prophet, and king (CCC 1241). It equally unveils who we are and whose we are, as a royal stock: priestly people, holy people, God’s chosen generation. We owe it to God to live in a dignified and righteous manner, ad rem to our calling as a royal breed, beloved and favoured generation.
(iii) *WE TOO MUST LEARN TO IDENTIFY WITH ONE ANOTHER*
As Jesus consented out of love, to the “baptism” of death for the remission of our sins, we too must learn to boldly identify with the poor, needy, sick, emotionally traumatized and rejected. The political and religious elites should learn to identify with those placed under their charge by using the hospitals with them, allowing their children to attend the same schools with the children of the poor, etc.
Finally, in the dark days when Nazism spread across Europe and overpowered the Danes, Hitler ordered the king of Denmark to issue a decree whereby all Jews in the country would publicly identify themselves by wearing a yellow arm band with a Star of David on it. The king knew that anyone so identified would be rounded up and sent to the death camps. He also knew the danger of disobeying Hitler’s orders. So when he issued his decree, he wore a yellow arm band with the Star of David on it, although he was not Jewish. The people immediately knew what to do. The next day, everyone in the country – Jew and Gentile alike, wore the required arm band. Solidarity with those condemned resulted in life for all.
Beloved, at every moment we identify with anyone, whether rich, poor, white or black, we save a soul. Jesus identified with us in our baptismal cleansing inorder to save us, we too must learn to identify with one another, both in good and bad times.
MAY THE SOLEMNITY OF THE BAPTISM OF THE LORD, GIVE US THE GRACE AND PROMPTINGS TOWARDS FULFILLING OUR BAPTISMAL VOWS, PROMISES AND OBLIGATIONS. AMEN.
_FR GERALD MUOKA_