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Baptism of the Lord, Year C – Homily

Baptism of the Lord, Year C
Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11
Titus 2:11-14; 3:4-7
Luke 3:15-16; 21-22
January 10, 2016

Our Christmas season began with our Masses on Christmas Eve.  For many people when December 25th ended, Christmas was over but not for us.

Since then we have celebrated the Feast of the Holy Family, the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, and the Epiphany.  There is much to celebrate with Christmas.

Our Christmas season draws to a close today with our celebration of the Baptism of our Lord.  It has been the practice of our faith since the early centuries that we baptize babies.  Since they are still babies, it makes perfect sense for birth and baptism to be celebrated together.

However, Jesus was not baptized until he was around thirty years old.  So why do we celebrate his baptism with his birth?  To understand this we need to talk about what baptism is.

Jesus was baptized by John.  John’s baptism was for one purpose, the forgiveness of sins.  Of course, Jesus had no sins and thus did not need to be baptized by John.

Even John realized that Jesus would make baptism something more when he said “I am baptizing you with water…. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”  We see this when the Holy Spirit comes down on Jesus like a dove.

We also see how Jesus is identified by God as His Son at baptism.  We become children of God through baptism.

Jesus’ baptism marks a new beginning as he begins to teach and heal.  It marks a new beginning for Him and for us.  Our being baptized begins our entry into new life.

In baptism, we are to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly and devoutly.  We are to be clothed in Christ.

Jesus’ baptism begins a life of service for him.  Likewise, we are called in our own baptism to be priest, prophet, and king, to serve.

What does it mean to serve?  Isaiah calls us to give comfort, speak tenderly, to proclaim, and to be a people of forgiveness.  This is what Pope Francis has declared a Jubilee Year of Mercy for, for us to serve others with acts of mercy.

What Isaiah speaks of can be found in the Spiritual Works of Mercy; to comfort the sorrowful, forgiving injuries, and bearing wrongs patiently.  We are to instruct the ignorant (proclaim).  Is this not what we ask God to do for us?  We are called to do the same for others.

Our call to service goes further.  We are called to help all in need, whether they live next door or come from a foreign land. We are called to stand up for the rights of others.

Some people think that the Social Teaching of our Catholic faith is new.  They don’t understand why the Pope speaks about how we treat immigrants, capitalism, or the environment.

What the Pope says is not new teaching.  It takes what Jesus teaches us and applies it to new situations.  For instance, the concerns we face in our environment today weren’t apparent 2,000 years ago when Jesus came.  As to capitalism, the way we do business changed greatly with the Industrial Revolution and the dawning of the technology era.

Jesus may not have talked about the environment and capitalism but what he did talk about is how we treat other people and it’s in the Bible.  In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus tells us that we will be judged by what we do for the hungry, thirsty, naked, stranger, and those in prison.

Now, if Jesus says it, that is good enough for me, but if you want to go back farther, you can find passages in the Old Testament where God directs us to help those in need. (I’ve been looking at some of those preparing for my talk this Thursday.)

These acts to help the physically poor and the disadvantaged are called the Corporal Works of Mercy.  If you read Pope Francis’ document, Misericordiae Vultus, you will see him write about the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy.

The whole idea of this Jubilee Year of Mercy is rooted in the fact that the world needs more mercy today.  Are you willing to perform acts of mercy?  Are you willing to be the visible face of the Father’s mercy to the world?  It is our baptismal call to serve God and to serve the needs of others.

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