Baptism of the Lord

In 05 Homilies by Fr. Reid on 2016/01/14 at 12:00 AM


 On our baptismal font is an inscription in mosaic that reads: Here a people of godly race are born of heaven; the Spirit gives them life in the fertile waters.
 This is part of a longer quote that Pope Sixtus III had inscribed in the baptistery of St. John Lateran, the mother Church of all Christendom, that continues: The Church-Mother, in these waves, bears her children like virginal fruit she has conceived by the Holy Spirit. Hope for the kingdom of heaven, you who are reborn in this spring, for those who are born but once have no share in the life of blessedness. Here is to be found the source of life, which washes the whole universe, which gushed from the wound of Christ. Sinner , plung e into the sacred f ountain to w ash a w a y y our sin. The w ater receiv es the old man, and in his place makes
the new man rise. Y ou wish to become innocent; cleanse y ourself in this ba th, w ha tev er y our b urden ma y be, Adam’s sin or your own. There is no difference between those who are reborn; they are one, in a single baptism, a single Spirit, a single faith. Let none be afraid of the number of the weight of their sins: those who are born of this stream will be made holy.
 Remarkable, isn’t it? In baptism we are reborn to new life; we are prepared for Heaven! Whatever sins we may enter with into the baptismal font are washed away so that we may become like Christ Himself! It is to this remarkable sacrament that we turn our eyes today.
 Throughout the course of every Christmas Season, we celebrate the very mysterious fact that some 2000 years ago, God became man and dwelt among us.
 While His birth in the obscurity of a stable in the backwater town of Bethlehem may seem counterintuitive for the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, we know by faith that simply in choosing to be born for us, God chose to be known by us (St. Peter Chrysologus).
 The invisible and infinite Lord became visible, and we have seen His glory, the glory of the Father’s only begotten Son, full of grace and truth.
 And so it was that his earliest visitors were not only shepherds and farm animals, but also 3 kings from the East who, through the guidance of a wondrous star, came to adore Him and present Him with gifts befitting His sovereignty: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
 In this rather strange and astonishing event in the early life of Jesus, which we celebrated last Sunday with the Feast of the Epiphany, we recalled how God’s hidden presence as a tiny babe born to the Virgin Mary was made manifest to the whole world!
 Today, we celebrate a further manifestation of Christ’s divinity as He is baptized in the Jordan River by St. John the Baptist.
 For today we hear God the Father Himself attest to Jesus’ divinity as He says from Heaven: “You are my beloved Son; with You I am well pleased.”
 And Jesus’ divinity is made manifest to us not simply to show us that God desired to be one of us. Our Lord’s divinity is made manifest to us so that we might know for certain Who He Is and become like Him! And becoming like Christ begins in baptism.
 Just as a dove came to Noah in the ark, announcing that the flood waters washing away the sins of humanity had receded from the earth, so too now in Christ’s baptism do we witness another dove, the Holy Spirit, announcing that man’s shipwreck has come to an end (cf. Peter Chrysologus)!
 As water was the means for purifying the earth in the days of Noah, through the baptism of our Lord, water becomes once again the means of washing away humanity’s sins so that a new and eternal covenant with God can be formed.
 Though He was in no need of the healing and regenerative power of baptism, by being baptized Jesus shows us the way to eternal life! And as we step into those healing waters imbued with the power of the Holy Spirit, we enter into a life-giving covenant with our Lord.
 Throughout the course of the Old Testament we read time and time again of how our Lord formed covenants with His chosen people, the Israelites. And we read time and time again of how those covenants were broken through the sins of the Israelites.
 The Old Testament history of the Israelites is a story of promises made between God and man, and of those promises sadly and selfishly broken by man. It is a story of sin and its consequences, of mercy and redemption.
 Through it all, through all the terrible sins and infidelities of the Israelites, we see the constant willingness of God to take them back and to renew His covenant of love with them.
 Truly, their history is our history.
 For in Christ’s death and resurrection, a new and eternal covenant was formed with man, a covenant that we enter through the Sacrament of Baptism. Thus, our baptism is the inauguration of our relationship with Christ, opening to us a life of sanctifying grace.
 Through the grace of this sacrament and all the other sacraments, we are given everything we need to grow in a life of genuine holiness – for that is our call as Christians!
 To profess and practice the Christian faith, which begins with our baptism, is a vocation to holiness. So everyone who has been baptized is called to holiness; we are called to be saints!
 As St. Paul wrote to St. Titus in our second reading today, God’s grace is given to us so that we might “reject godless ways and worldly desires, and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age.”
 Through the “bath of rebirth,” we have been cleansed and saved, so that we might be God’s own people, “eager to do what is good.”
 And we are called to be saintly not simply for our own salvation, but that we might be “a light for the nations,” that we might “open the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.”
 Indeed, holiness is never a gift solely for the one who is holy. Holiness is meant to be shared. We must be willing to encourage others to a life of holiness by living saintly lives.
 So, my dear brothers and sisters, as we delve into this new year with all sorts of resolutions, let us make the resolution to be a saint! In our baptism we were given the gifts of faith, hope, and charity. We were made members of the Body of Christ, and so we are His co-heirs: sons and daughters of God the Father with Jesus!
 Calling upon the graces of our baptism that are strengthened and renewed through our worthy reception of the sacraments, may we live our baptismal promise of obedience to the Lord well so that we may indeed be saints.
 And in choosing to be saints, may we each be another manifestation of Christ in the world!
13 January 2013 © Reverend Timothy Reid Fr. Reid is the pastor of St. Ann Catholic Church, Charlotte, NC Homilies from June 17, 2012 onward have audio. To enable the audio, lease go directly to Fr. Reid’s homily homilies and select the matching date. Link to Homilies: http://stanncharlotte.org/content/index.php?option=com_content&view=section&id=8&Itemid=61


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