Homily for the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord Year B
Theme: BAPTISM & SENSE OF BELONGING
By: Fr. Gerald Musa
Homily for Sunday January 10 2021
We all love to have a sense of belonging. Every organisation attracts members and to be a member is to have a sense of belonging to that organisation. We use identity cards or even passwords as evidence of our membership. Religious organisations and cultural groups have different rituals for conferring membership or some methods for initiation of new members. For the Jews initiation is through circumcision and for Christians membership is conferred by way of baptism.
This Sunday many Churches in the Christian world are commemorating the baptism of Jesus. Just before he began his public ministry, Jesus approached John for baptism. The question here is why did Jesus submit himself for baptism? It sounds like a founding father of a nation requesting for citizenship in a nation he founded. No wonder John was slow in taking the honour of baptising someone who was greater than he. “John tried to prevent him, saying, ‘I need to be baptised by you and yet you are coming to me?” Jesus said to John: “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting to fulfil all righteousness.” It was a baptism to fulfil all righteousness because Jesus had no need of the baptism.
The baptism of John was the baptism of repentance and Jesus was sinless and had no reason for repentance or conversion. However, he went to John for baptism for some significant reasons: He went as a mark of humility; his baptism was a symbolic act which made him stand in solidarity with all sinners; The fulfilment of all righteousness could also be interpreted as the fulfilment of the law of Moses which required that all priests be washed with water as Aaron and his sons were washed before they began to minister unto the people (Leviticus 8:6). Similarly, the baptism of Jesus marked the beginning his public ministry. Isaiah the prophet perfectly describes the identity and ministry of Jesus. He identifies him as the servant, chosen, and full of the Holy Spirit and his ministry is to serve as a light to the nations, who will open the eyes that are blind, bring out prisoners from the dungeon, and to bring out from the prison those who sit in darkness (Cf. Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7).
The baptism of Jesus was a moment to confirm, assert and affirm his identity as “beloved of God.” Baptism confers a Christian identity on the baptised. The Catechism of the Church explains our membership through baptism: “In Baptism we become members of the body of Christ, sisters and brothers of our Redeemer and Children of God” (Cf. Youth Catechism #200).
Challenges of Identity
There are times when we experience a challenge of identity. For example, it can be challenging asserting your identity in a place where you are in the minority: For example in a place where you are the only Catholic in the midst of Pentecostals or the only Christian in the midst of Muslims or as a member of a minority party in the midst of people who belong to a dominant party. How are you able to assert or compromise your identity in a difficult situation?
Another challenge of identity is living a life where our identity tallies with our pattern of life. We can experience some identity crisis when our religious values do not agree with our public identity.
Furthermore, in the modern world where we have multiple identities such as tribal, racial, professional, it can be confusing to know which of these identities is most important. There are people who identify more with their tribes and race than with their religion.
So, what is an authentic Christian identity? We may be quick to mention some external identities such as the Bible, scapular, and rosary. All these identify who we are. However, authentic Christian identity is essentially tied to the identity of Jesus. He is the head and his members are the body; he is the vine and his members the branches. As we share in his identity, we also share in his mission.
The apostle Peter states that as soon as Jesus was baptised, he went about doing good and healing those who were oppressed by the devil (Acts 10:38). Likewise those who receive baptism are to share in the ministry of Jesus as “Members of his body” (Ephesians 5:30).
Baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ, Year B; Isaiah 55:1-11; 1 John 5:1-9; Mark 1:7-11