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Friday, 8 January 2016

Reflection/Homily: Feast of the Baptism of our Lord Year C (January 10 2016)

Theme: What Does Christ’s Baptism Mean for Us? 

Today’s feast, the Baptism of our Lord was originally one of the three Gospel events marked by the feast of Epiphany. In the Western Church, it was later overshadowed by the visit of the Magi before Pope Pius XII in 1955 instituted it as a separate liturgical commemoration of Christ’s baptism. The Baptism of Christ is a great point of Theophany because in it the mystery of the Blessed Trinity is made manifest.

The Gospel reading (Luke 3:15-16.21-22) confirms this manifestation of the Blessed Trinity at the Baptism of Jesus. God the Father is revealed in the Voice which confirmed the Sonship of Jesus, God the Son is revealed in Jesus who was baptized and God the Holy Spirit is revealed in the Dove which descended on the Son. This manifestation of the Trinity thus becomes the origin and destination of our Christian worship because all our prayers begin and end in the name of the Blessed Trinity.

Jesus received John’s baptism and in the process instituted a higher form of baptism which according to John is with “fire and the Holy Spirit”. John’s baptism laid the foundation for Christian baptism. In the latter, Christ instituted a baptism which is not just a mere religious practice but also a sacrament. He brought the Trinitarian dimension to baptism and thus made baptism a communion with God and the Church. John’s baptism is for repentance but Christ’s baptism is more than that. It is a source of cleansing; a personal reconciliation with God after the fall and a means of incorporating the individual into the family of God.

Christ had no need for baptism because he had no atom of sin in him and did not need any incorporation into God’s family since he already shares in God’s divinity. His baptism was first and foremost, a confirmation of His incarnation, that He has not only taken our flesh but has also come to live among us and do the things we do. With His baptism, He identified with the people and confirmed His oneness with them in their longing for God. He thus, purified the waters of baptism, upgraded baptism to the status of a sacrament and approved it as a means of becoming God’s adopted children. In turn, God used Christ’s baptism to commission his Public Ministry with the anointing of the Holy Spirit. 

This anointing of the Holy Spirit is the fulfillment of the Prophecy of Isaiah in the first reading (Isaiah 42:1-4,6-7). In talking about the Servant of the Lord, Isaiah talks of one specially chosen by God and endowed with the Spirit of God (the Holy Spirit). By the power of this Spirit, he was commissioned as covenant of the people and light of the nations to open the eyes of the blind, to free captives from prison and those who live in darkness from the dungeon.

Beloved friends, the baptism of Jesus was a pointer to our own baptism and is therefore very significant for us. Christian baptism remains valid whether done by immersion or aspersion, at infancy or at adulthood. What is important remains the intention, the matter (water) and the form (words). At our baptism we enter into communion with the Trinity; we become children of the Father, co-heirs with the Son and friends of the Holy Spirit. Through the Church, God confirms us as His adopted children and equips us with the gifts and seal of the Holy Spirit which empowers us to participate in the common priesthood of Christ.

Our participation in the priesthood of Christ is not a baptismal right but an effect of baptismal grace. In the second reading (Acts 10:34-38), we see this grace at work in the household of Cornelius who received the gifts of the Holy Spirit. That is why Peter went on to talk about the impartiality of God in administering His gifts. The greatest gift of the Holy Spirit is the Holy Spirit himself. Enabled by the Holy Spirit, Jesus went about doing good. Since we have received the same Holy Spirit at our baptism, have we gone about doing good? Therefore, today, let us renew our baptismal promises and resolve to be more faithful to them. God loves you. Happy Sunday.            

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