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Baptism of the Lord, Year B – Homily

The Baptism of the Lord
Isaiah 55:1-11
1 John 5:1-9
Mark 1:7-11
January 11, 2015

Today our celebration of our Christmas Season draws to a close with our celebration of the Baptism of our Lord Jesus.  Our Christmas Season began with our celebration of Jesus’ birth.

Since then we have celebrated the Feast of the Holy Family, The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, and most recently the Epiphany.

All of these celebrations are intimately tied to the birth of Jesus.  However, today we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord, which occurred when Jesus was around thirty years old.  So, why link His Baptism to His birth?

We might begin answering this by first reflecting on when Jesus tells Nathaniel that it is not enough to be born of flesh.  We must also be born of the Spirit.  We are born of the Spirit in baptism so Jesus’ own baptism represents a new birth for him.  So we begin Christmas with the human birth of Jesus and we end Christmas with the celebration of spiritual birth.

We can also reflect on the link between Jesus’ birth and baptism as a question of why He was born.  Jesus was Son of God and seated at the right hand of the Father.  He became human like us in birth so that He might come and proclaim God’s love and mercy.  Jesus’ mission really kicks in at His baptism.

In our second reading we hear that Jesus came through water and blood.  The water is, of course, the waters of Baptism and the living waters of the Holy Spirit and the blood is the blood that flowed from His side as He hung crucified upon the Cross.

Jesus’ mission is completed in His Crucifixion and so we link His birth, Baptism, and Crucifixion.

This idea of mission is important to our understanding what Baptism is for us.

John baptized for one reason, for the forgiveness of sins.  Jesus had no sins so it would seem that Jesus would not need to be baptized but John himself tells us that Jesus’ baptism is much more than his.  John tells us that Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit.  We see this in Jesus’ own baptism when the dove descended upon Him.

At Jesus’ Baptism we also hear God the Father say to Jesus, “You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.”  In His Baptism, Jesus is identified as God’s Son and in baptism we become children of God in a new way.

Why is God well pleased with Jesus?  Because now Jesus is going to fulfill what God sent Him for, the redemption of His people.

All that is signified in Jesus’ Baptism, we receive in our own baptism.  Jesus began His public ministry from His Baptism.  In baptism, we come to the water and receive new life and a mission.

We are empowered for our mission by the Holy Spirit we receive in baptism.  As we receive the Holy Spirit, we are given gifts.  We receive a common mission to proclaim the gospel but we are each called to do it in different ways.

As a priest I proclaim the gospel in a very public way but all of you share in this mission.  It can be as a parent teaching their child about the faith.  Sometimes we think it is the job of the religion teachers to teach the children about Jesus.  It is but it begins in the home.  If a child never sees their parents pray or live the gospel, can the child really understand what our faith is about.

So parents and teachers both proclaim the gospel but we do to people in general not just in what we say to them but in how we act towards them.  Do we show that God cares?  Do we show that we care?

We might also ask ourselves, ‘do we show that knowing Jesus makes a difference in our lives?’

Remember the people from Jesus’ hometown who thought they knew who He was, the son of a carpenter.  They had only seen the human side of Jesus.  In His Baptism, His divine side came to be known.  Do we show that we are changed by knowing Jesus?

Jesus was both human and divine.  We are born human and then receive the Holy Spirit.  It’s often easier to just be human.  It’s hard to be holy.  I know I struggle but I also know that when I fail God will forgive me and strengthen me to do better.

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