Baptism of the Lord – Homily

Baptism of the Lord, Year C
Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11
Titus 2:11-1, 3:4-7
Luke 3:15-16, 21-2
January 13, 2013

Today we celebrate the Baptism of Jesus.

Baptisms are always something to celebrate.  Baptisms are occasions of great joy.  As I say this, somebody might be thinking, “Why?”

Why should baptisms always be joyful?      Well, let’s think about what happens at baptism.  We are set free from Original Sin.  When baptized as adults, all our sins up to that point are forgiven (certainly forgiveness of sin is a good thing).  In Baptism, we are reborn into eternal life, becoming children of God in a new and profound way, and becoming members of our faith community.  And we receive the Holy Spirit.

I think all of these are wonderful things.  But it begs the question “Why did Jesus need to be baptized?”

Jesus had no sins as the Son of God.  He already shared in eternal life as the eternal Son of God.  He didn’t need to be “reborn” and already enjoyed unity with the Holy Spirit as part of the Trinity.

Jesus did not need to be baptized for himself.  In his own baptism, Jesus accomplished three things.  First, he set an example for us that we do need to be baptized.  Secondly, he made holy the waters of Baptism for us.  Lastly, he took the Baptism of John and made it something more incredible and full of grace.

John’s Baptism was seen as having one central purpose, the forgiveness of sins.  That is no small purpose.  We need forgiveness for our sins.

This doesn’t berate John’s Baptism.  John knew his baptism was insignificant compared to Jesus.  He said himself “I am baptizing you with water … He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”      Jesus adds the Holy Spirit (Thanks be to God!), rebirth, and adds an initiation component, as baptism makes us members of God’s family.

In Jesus’ own life, his baptism did mark a new beginning.  As soon as Jesus was baptized, he began his public ministry of preaching, teaching, curing, and driving out demons.  In essence Jesus began his ministry as priest, prophet, and king with his baptism.  Jesus is the priest in his Crucifixion, freely sacrificing his own life for us.  He is prophet as a preacher and teacher of the faith.  He is king, not as a ruler with power, but as one who serves.

Through Baptism, we are all called to do the same.  In the baptismal ceremony, right after we are baptized with the water, we are anointed priest, prophet, and king with the Sacred Chrism.

How in the world are all of us supposed to be priest, prophet, and king?

We share in priesthood by being willing to make sacrifices in our own lives for the good of others.  For example, what does a parent willing give up for their children?

We can all be prophets in sharing our faith.  This doesn’t have to be about teaching the extensive doctrines of the church.  It begins by telling people that our faith is important to us.

We are all kings not in ruling over people but in serving our needs.  And none of these should be one-time events in our lives.

Living as priest, prophet, and king is part of who we are, who God calls us to be.      We can all use our gifts to make the Kingdom of God known to all.  A teacher does it in teaching the students not just facts but what it means to be a good person.  A lawyer can do it by advocating for what is right rather than just seeking to win a case to make money.  A business person does it by following ethic principles and being concerned more with the people affected by the work of the company than profit.

All this being said, I would like to take a moment to focus on a particular calling in life.  This week we celebrate National Vocations Awareness Week.  We should always be praying for all of us to know what God is calling us to do but during this week in particular, we are called to pray that God call forth people to serve as priests, deacons, and religious.  We also pray that those called by God have the courage to respond yes.       It can also be a time to think about people around us who God may be calling to become a priest, deacon, or religious.  We might pray for the strength to tell them we think God might be calling them.

I truly believe it is God who calls me to be a priest.  It is God who makes it possible for me to do what I do as a pastor and a priest.  There is no way I could do what I do without God’s help.     That being said, beyond God’s call itself, one of the things that was essential to get me to say yes was other people who told me that they thought I should think about becoming a priest.

So pray!  Pray that we all know what God is calling us to do and pray for those called to the priesthood, diaconate, and religious life, and pray that we support them in their calling.


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