Sunday – 08 January 2023. The Baptism of the Lord

Sunday – 08 January 2023. The Baptism of the Lord

Theme: Jesus brings justice and divine life to the nations. As his baptised family, we seek the kingdom of God through justice and peace.

1st Reading: Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7

A courageous servant of God will help others to keep the Covenant

Thus says the Lord:
“Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry or lift up his voice,
or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed he will not break,
and a dimly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.

He will not grow faint or be crushed
until he has established justice in the earth;
and the coastlands wait for his teaching.
I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness,
I have taken you by the hand and kept you;
I have given you as a covenant to the people,
a light to the nations,
to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
from the prison those who sit in darkness.”

2nd Reading: Acts of the Apostles 10:34-38

After his baptism of Jesus went about doing good. Baptism sends us out to do good

Then Peter began to speak to them: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: he is Lord of all. That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.”

Gospel: Mt 3: 13-17


Having a clear purpose in life

During a pilgrimages to the Holy Land I and some friends stood up to our knees in the river Jordan, to renew the promises of our baptism. It was a moving experience as we remembered the Holy Spirit descending on Jesus just after HIS baptism. By being baptised into him we are counted as members of God’s beloved family. United with Jesus, we are made like him, God’s own daughters and sons. Others who stood that day in the Jordan will remember that moment today and use it to renew their commitment to Jesus. But all of us were baptised somewhere, sometime, and we can claim that baptism fully as our own.

Our Lord’s baptism is a vital moment in our story of salvation, where he joined with humanity in the humble outreach to God, and where the Father and the Spirit are seen and heard to be there with him. Our gospel says that “the heavens were opened,”  a powerful statement of the point of contact between heaven and earth. Later on, as Jesus completes his life-journey on Calvary, we read how “the veil of the Temple was rent in two,” a symbol that we are not completely free to enter the Holy of Holies. Today’s gospel has Jesus beginning a journey which each of us is asked to travel. It is a journey full of purpose, a journey of intent. We need a sense of purpose and pattern to our living. St Peter summarised the purpose and pattern of Christ’s life when he said, “went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.” We are each invited, personally, to make this purpose our own.

A little story about finding direction: A Dubliner was down the country travelling along by-roads where the signposts were few and far between. After a while, unsure of his directions, he decided to ask the first person he saw. When he came across a farmer driving his cows home for milking he stopped the car and asked if he was on the right road to Mallow. The farmer told him that he certainly was on the Mallow road. The driver thanked him and was about to move forward when the farmer added, in a nonchalant way, “You’re on the right road, but you’re going in the wrong direction!’ Let’s look into our own lifestyle today, to see if our direction is right.

Celebrating Baptism

The sacrament I most like celebrating is the sacrament of baptism. It is always such a happy occasion when a child’s birth is publicly celebrated and cheered, and here they are received into a larger family, the family of the church. In being received into our church-family, these children become our brothers and sisters in the Lord, sons and daughters of God, and temples of the Spirit. The joy of faith and hope is palpable, especially when the parents and godparents come up to the baptismal font and the water is poured over the head of the child by the celebrant. Each child is anointed before and after baptism with special oil of catechumens and the oil of chrism; the baptismal shawl is placed around the child and the baptismal candle is lit. The whole occasion is uplifting in a way that is unique to that sacrament.

Of course, the majority of baptisms are of children, who are oblivious to what is happening around them. A big decision is being made on their behalf without their knowing anything about it. Yet, just as parents make all kinds of other big decisions for their children without consulting them, so they happily make this significant decision on their behalf. There is a story in the gospels of parents bringing little children to Jesus. When the disciples tried to stop parents doing this, Jesus rebuked his disciples and said to them, ‘let the children come to me and do not stop them, for to such as these the kingdom of God belongs.’ Parents continue to bring their children to Jesus today whenever they present them for baptism, because in baptism they are being baptized into the person of Christ; they become members of his body; Jesus begins to live within them through the Spirit. When parents bring their children for baptism they are making a decision for them that is very much in keeping with the Lord’s desire. ‘Let the children come to me and do not stop them.’

Today we celebrate the feast of the baptism of Jesus. It is a good day to reflect on our own baptism and its significance for us. The day of Jesus’ baptism was a watershed in his life; it was a day of new beginning. On that day he began his public ministry during which he gave himself fully in the service of God and all of God’s people. On that day Jesus launched forth as the one who came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. As he set out on that momentous journey for all of us, he was assured of God his Father’s favour, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on you’, and he was empowered by the Holy Spirit, who descended upon him like a dove.

Even though Jesus was baptised by John as an adult and we received Christian baptism as children, our baptism was also a day of new beginning for us. On that day we were launched on the great adventure of becoming disciples of Jesus in our own time. On that day, we too were given an assurance of God’s love and favour, and we too were empowered by the Holy Spirit for the journey ahead of us. On that day we were caught up into Jesus’ own very special relationship with God and we became a member of Jesus’ family of disciples, the church. It is a moment of grace that has the potential to shape our lives in a very fundamental way, in a way that is in keeping with God’s purpose for our lives.

In a sense we spend the rest of our lives trying to catch up with that day of new beginning. We are baptized as children but it is as adults that we confirm our baptism for ourselves. It is as adults that we say our own adult ‘yes’ to the Lord who said ‘yes’ to us as young children on the day of our baptism. It may be in our late twenties or our thirties or forties or even later that we come to say that ‘yes’ with all our heart and soul and mind. It is often in those mature years that we can hear the call of Isaiah in today’s First Reading, ‘O come to the water all you who are thirsty; Seek the Lord while he is still to be found, call to him while he is still near.’ The Lord keeps calling out to us from the moment of our baptism, and as the Lord declares in that First Reading, ‘the word that goes from my mouth does not return to me empty, without carrying out my will and succeeding in what it was sent to do.’ Our response to the Lord’s call, the Lord’s word, can be slow in coming, but his call, his word, remains powerfully creative and will in some way or other make of us what God wants for us. [M Hogan]

Called for a mission

Seamus was a young man who couldn’t believe what he had just done. In the middle of the priest’s homily, he suddenly left his wife and children in the pew and walked out. He felt angry inside, so angry that he couldn’t sit still a minute longer. But he had no idea what his anger was about. Rather than embarrass his family further, he walked home from Mass on his own.

That afternoon he talked the matter over with his wife Sue, but neither of them could work out why he felt so angry. So he made an appointment with his priest for the following Tuesday night. Fr Smith suggested: ‘Tell me everything you remember about Sunday morning, starting with all you spoke to when you arrived at church, and everything you can remember about the Mass.’ Seamus outlined all the people he had spoken to, and what was said as best he could remember. But nothing stood out from the conversations which shed light on the source of his anger. He then made a summary of the flow of the Mass up till the gospel. He couldn’t remember which gospel had been read and what it was about.

It’s interesting,’ Fr Smith said, ‘how you remember well the first two readings, but haven’t got a clue about the gospel. So, let me remind you.’ The priest pulled a missal down from the shelf and read the gospel. As Seamus heard the familiar words about John the Baptist and the baptism of Jesus, he became aware that he did remember hearing them on Sunday, but it was not till Fr Smith came to the last words of the text that he knew what his anger was about:

And a voice spoke from heaven,
‘You are my Son, the one whom I love;
I am very pleased with you.’

‘That’s what I always wanted to hear from my father,’ Seamus said bitterly, ‘and now it’s too late, because he’s dead.’ Tears came to his eyes as he let himself feel for the first time the deep hurt he had been carrying for far too long. ‘Perhaps there is something you can do about it,’ Fr Smith replied. ‘Let’s pretend that your dad is sitting right here in this chair.’ He pulled an empty chair over and placed it in front of Seamus. ‘Tell him how you feel. Don’t leave anything out.’

Seamus stumbled over his words at first, but after a few moments he spoke passionately, pouring out everything he wanted to say to his father. When he was finished, Fr Smith looked at him and said, ‘What do you think your father would say to all that?’ John thought for a minute and then he replied: I think he would say what he used to say when I was upset and afraid as a child. He would pick me up, give me a big bear hug, and say: “Seamus, I love you. There’s nothing to worry about. That’s my boy”. When he left Fr Smith’s office, he felt that a heavy load had dropped from his shoulders. For the first time since his father died, he felt at peace.

There are times in our lives when we need our parents, or some significant other to re-assure and encourage us, someone to tell us who we are, why we matter, and why they have high hopes for us. The time came in the life of Jesus when he too needed re-assurance and encouragement to find a new direction in his life. It happened at his baptism by John in the Jordan River. What happened is cast in dramatic language. From the open heavens the comforting and empowering Holy Spirit came down on him like a dove. A voice from heaven spoke: ‘You are my Son the Beloved; my favour rests on you.’

It’s after this experience of hearing God speaking to him on the banks of the Jordan River, that Jesus understands that the time has come for him to begin his work on earth as God’s Son and Servant. The words of the prophet Isaiah, heard in the First Reading, come to Jesus. “’Console my people, console them,’ says your God.” It’s as though Jesus has just heard God the Father say to him: ‘I have chosen you for this mission of Good Shepherd. Go to my people. Tell them that I love them. Show them that I love them. Gather them together and bring them back to me.’ Now that he knew what was expected of him there would be no holding back. As we heard in our Second Reading: ‘He sacrificed himself for us in order to set us free from all wickedness and to purify a people … who would have no ambition except to do good.’ That’s why he laid down his life for others to his very last breath and his last drop of blood.
We too, all of us, are dearly and deeply loved by God. He is our Father too. We are his sons and daughters, made so by our baptism. We are also sisters and brothers of Jesus. We have been joined to his person at our baptism and sent out on the very same mission as Jesus – to show and tell people everywhere just how much God loves them. Can we re-open our hearts to God as persons called and sent, as people on a mission? Can we hear him saying to us those words spoken to Jesus: ‘I have chosen you for this mission. Go to my people. Tell them that I love them. Show them that I love them. Bring them back to me?’

Brian Gleeson

Dearbhú ár mBaiste

Is nasc saoil é an Bhaisteadh. Gabhann an dualgas atá orainn an chuid eile dár saoil a d’iarraidh ár ndualgaisí in a leith a chomhlíonadh Nuair a bhainimid amach aois na céile is ansan a thugaimid ár lán toil don Tiarna, a sheas linn ó thús. Is minic go mbíonn fiche bliain caite sula a dtugtaimid an comhaontú iomlán, lán-toilteanach seo. I mblianta na maitheasa is mó go mór a théann ráiteas Isiaia, atá in a chuid de léacht an Aifrinn inniu, i bhfeidhm orainn “Hóigh, a lucht an íota, tagaigí faoi choinne uisce, Lorgaígí an Tiarna fad a chuireann Sé é féin ar fáil, glaoigí air fad atá Sé i ngar”. Bíonn an Tiarna dár dtreorú gan staonadh ón mbaiste, agus mar atá ráite sa Scrioptúir ” an Briathar a théann as mo bhéal, ní fhilleann san orm gan toradh, gan an rud ab áil liom a dhéanamh agus mo bheart a chur i gcrích”. Dála Íosa Críost tugamis cluas le héisteacht do ghairm an bhaisteadh.
(Aistrithe ag an tAth. Uinseann, OCSO)

One Comment

  1. Thara Benedicta says:

    Key Message:
    We keep focusing on our imperfections, whereas God focuses on who we are.

    Inferences from the Baptism of our Lord Jesus:

    1. Why was our Lord Jesus Christ baptized? Our Lord said, “In order for me to be obedient to my Almighty Father, you have to baptize me.” He was satisfying all that was required to be righteous.

    2. Father gave His approval to Jesus that He is His only Son to do His ministry. That was one of the significant events in Baptism. This was the first time ‘God our Almighty Father’ testified Jesus as His beloved Son. Till then our Lord Jesus was known to humanity majorly as Son of Saint Joseph and Mamma Mary. When our Lord Jesus was born in Bethlehem He was introduced to the shepherds and the kings. Once Saint Joseph and Mamma Mary rushed out of Bethlehem, they were known only as an ordinary couple and baby Jesus only as a human child. But during Baptism, God our Father lifted the veil of our Lord Jesus and exposed His true identity – the only Son of our Almighty God.

    During our Baptism too, our Almighty Father gives us the approval that we are His children and writes our names in His big palm. He writes our names in His palm so that our names will always be in front of His eyes. Even if we forget ourselves, our Almighty Father cannot forget us. He continually sees our names embedded in His hands.

    Thank God for your parents for baptizing you as a baby. Your names are already written in Almighty God’s hands!!

    3. Anointing of the Holy Spirit – The first thirty years of His life went in silent preparation for His future ministry. It was the plan of Almighty God for Jesus to live among us the next three years of His life and teach us all that we require in just those three years. During His Baptism, God anointed our Lord Jesus Christ with the Holy Spirit for performing His ministry. The infilling of the Holy Spirit was required for Jesus to complete God’s will in His life.

    If our Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of Almighty God, required the Holy Spirit, how much more would we require to accomplish our duties..

    Like our Lord Jesus, we are also anointed by the Holy Spirit. During the first thirty years of His life our Lord Jesus had the measure of the Holy Spirit for His silent days. For the next three years He needed a huge anointing of the Holy Spirit for fulfilling His ministry calling. The more anointing the more powerful the ministry.

    Sometimes we do not realise that we have the Holy Spirit. We have the Holy Spirit for accomplishing our duties silently just like the first 30 years of our Lord. But we need to ask for His help. As I was not well, I was lying down and writing this homily. But I was not able to get any points. So I asked the Holy Spirit to help me out. I immediately heard the silent voice, ‘sit and write’. Once I sat, I was able to get the points I needed to write this homily.

    We need to speak to the Holy Spirit as a person next to us. Unlike a human friend, He is always with us. The Bible says “The Holy Spirit is a comforter, a helper”. He will guide us in what way we should go and comfort us when we are stressed out. Our Lord Jesus Christ said, “It is good that I go away, since only then the Holy Spirit will come to you”. Our Lord Jesus was in the human body so He couldn’t be with all at all times. But the Holy Spirit can be with us all the time. Our Lord Jesus wanted us to individually experience the presence of God and individually enjoy God’s comfort. Continue speaking with the Holy Spirit.

    When we have a responsibility to work for God’s ministry we need more and more anointing of the Holy Spirit. Our Lord Jesus Christ asked the Apostles to remain in Jerusalem and pray till the comforter came. He did not allow them to begin their ministry till the powerful anointing of the Holy Spirit. How did they prepare to receive the anointing of the Holy Spirit? They praised God. Praising God is a simple way to receive the anointing. When we feel far away from God or are not able to feel His presence, do not feel dejected. Humbly praise Him. He loves you. He will run towards you.

    4. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased”… Our Almighty Father testified that He is well pleased with our Lord Jesus even before He started working for Him. God says the same for us, when we love Him. Each of us is immensely valuable in God’s sight. But we are still unhappy because we are unhappy with ourselves. Even Though God is happy with us we are not happy with ourselves. We are not happy with the way we look, what we do, what we do not do and so on.. And we keep comparing ourselves with others and keep disliking ourselves more and more. God does not want us to live in this world disliking us. We dislike our own selves then how can we enjoy a fulfilled life? Let us not be too hard on ourselves when we make mistakes. When Jesus was living on this earth, while His Apostles kept making multiple mistakes, did He condemn any of them? Consider that our Lord Jesus is with you now. You have made a mistake. Will He condemn you or forgive you? He can only forgive, because He loves you so much. Then why fret about it and miss doing good for the Lord? So lighten up and do not take your mistakes so seriously!! We are with us more than anyone else in this world. So let us enjoy our own company.

    While Jesus enjoys us, let us also enjoy ourselves and Jesus!!

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