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Homily – Baptism of the Lord, Year A

Baptism of the Lord, Year A
Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7
Acts 10:34-38
Matthew 3:13-17
January 12, 2014

Isaiah speaks of the “suffering servant” chosen by the Lord to receive his spirit and who pleases the Lord.  People ask who this “suffering servant” is who has been called by the Lord to bring justice to the nations in a peaceful way.

Some speculate it could be Isaiah himself.  As a prophet, Isaiah proclaimed God’s message but because he preached an unpopular message he faced sufferings from the people.

Some speculate that the “suffering servant” is the Israelite people as a whole who suffer in exile.

As Christians, we see Jesus as the “suffering servant”.  He is the one who suffers on the Cross for us.

Today we celebrate “The Baptism of the Lord”.  In the story of Jesus’ baptism we see Isaiah’s prophecy of the “suffering servant” fulfilled.  The spirit of the Lord comes upon him and the voice from Heaven confirms Jesus as his Son with whom he is well pleased.

Two questions – first, people have asked me this week why the Baptism of the Lord is part of our Christmas season.  Christmas is about Jesus’ birth but he wasn’t baptized until he was an adult.

Yes, Christmas is about Jesus’ birth that we celebrate with joy but to appreciate Jesus’ birth we must understand why he was born.  Jesus came to save us and his ministry begins with his baptism.  So, we conclude our Christmas season by celebrating the beginning of Jesus’ ministry for which he was born.

The other question becomes why did Jesus come to John to be baptized.  John himself doesn’t understand why Jesus comes to him for baptism.  First, John knows Jesus is greater than he, that he (John) should be baptized by Jesus.  We also remember that John’s baptism was solely for the forgiveness of sins.  Jesus had no sins.

Jesus says John is to baptize him to fulfill all righteousness.  It’s been God’s plan.  Why would God’s plan include the baptism of Jesus?

First, I think Jesus’ baptism sets an example for us.  If Jesus was baptized, then we should all be baptized.  But with Jesus, baptism is no longer just for the forgiveness of sins.

Jesus makes baptism so much more by sending down the Holy Spirit on all who are baptized.  We need the Holy Spirit.

Jesus’ baptism also marked a new beginning for him as he began his public ministry.  Likewise, baptism marks a new beginning for us as we are joined with Jesus, initiated as adopted sons and daughters of God.

Jesus becomes our brother.  In living our life in faith, I think we can say we become “partners” with Jesus.  I talked about how some saw the people of Israel as a whole as the “suffering servant.”  As Catholics, we share in the suffering of Jesus.

We are all formed by God, chosen and called by God to be his servants. In coming here today, we acknowledge our calling and ask for strength and guidance from God to fulfill the calling.

Each and every one of us has been giving gifts for the building up of God’s kingdom.  Ask yourself how you can be good stewards and use what you have been given to make your family, our parish, our church, and the whole world be what God calls it to be.

As an engineer working on roads and bridges I took my job seriously for the safety of the people travelling on the roads.  (For the record, I didn’t work on the roads and bridges around here.)  As the “administrator” of our parish, I think about how we care for our buildings to make sure they are safe and well maintained, hence our capital campaign.  As a priest, I think about how I can serve the spiritual needs of you as the people of our parish.

People ask what it takes to be a priest.  Years ago I think priests had a common story.  Today priests can have a variety of backgrounds.  There are still men who enter the seminary in college as their first career.  With my classmates in seminary, some were businessmen, one was a barber, one a marine biologist, and two others were engineers like me.

With religious sisters and brothers I think the variety can be even more.  There are religious who have backgrounds in law and do legal work for the people they serve.  I know a sister who works in the real estate business serving the poor.

As a priest, I think the most important thing I do is celebrating the sacraments but for each of us our calling centers on serving others.  How can you use the abilities you have been given to serve others around you?

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