Homily for the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord Year B
Theme: THE IDENTITY OF THE RIGHTEOUS
By: Rev Fr Gerald Muoka
Homily for Sunday January 10 2021
R1 – Is 42:1-4,6-7
RESP. PS – Is 12
R2 – Acts 10:34-38
GOSPEL- Mk 1:7-11
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 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 fulfill all righteousness; and like the Danish King in the introit story, who wore the yellow arm band with the Star of David to save the Jews in Denmark from Hitler’s sword, Jesus wore the baptismal arm band with us today, inorder to salvage us from the “Nazism” of sins and eternal damnation.
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: R= _Rebirth_ , I = _Initiation_ , C = _Commitment_ and E = _Empowerment_ 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.
*LESSONS OF THE BAPTISM OF THE LORD*
(i) _YOU ARE NOT ALONE_
(ii) _LIVE RIGHTEOUSLY AND ACT UPRIGHTLY_
(ii) _YOU ARE A ROYAL BREED_
*(i) YOU ARE NOT ALONE* _(God love you personally)_
The Baptism of the Lord assures us all who are buried in with Him in baptism (Col 2:12) of the Divine imprint that we are not alone. Like Jesus, baptism assures us of our belongingness to the family of God in our adoptive filiation as sons and daughters of God (Gal 3:26), in whom He is well pleased. This is chiefly substantiated by St Paul in the second reading. The baptism of Jesus Christ, hereby brings the confirmation that God knows and loves us personally, identifying us by our names (Is 43:1).
*(ii) LIVE RIGHTEOUSLY AND ACT UPRIGHTLY*
Jesus, according to Mathew, chose to be baptised by John, inorder to fulfill all righteousness. So, in today’s Solemnity, we learn to do the right things and walk uprightly, even when we have nothing to benefit from such gestures. Remember, righteousness exalts a nation (Prov 14:34), and only the righteous shall flourish like the palm tree (Ps 92:12).
(iii) *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.
Finally, there is an old parable about a tiger cub (baby tiger) raised by goats. The cub learned to bleat and nibble grass and behave like a goat. One night a tiger attacked the goats, which scampered for safety. But the tiger cub kept grazing and crying like a goat without getting frightened. The old tiger roared, “What are you doing here, living with these cowardly goats?” He grabbed the cub by the scruff, dragged him to a pond and said: “Look how our faces reflected in water! Now you know who you are and whose you are.” The tiger took the cub home, taught him how to catch animals, eat their meat, roar and act like a tiger. The tiger cub thus discovered his true self.
Just as we see in the above epilogue story about the tiger cub who through the mirrored reflection of the water, realized how different he was from the goats, recognizing Who and whose he was, and the overwhelming potentials in him to achieve, which are bigger than bleating and nibbling grasses; let us learn to discover our true selves, growing above some low-pitched standards of morality and live out our identity as a righteous and upright generation.
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