The Baptism of the Lord, Year B Homily by Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
Readings: Isa 55:1-11; Ps Isa 12:2-3, 4bcd, 5-6; 1 Jn 5:1-9 and Mark 1:7-11
Baptism, a new Life in Christ
Today we celebrate the Baptism of Christ which reminds us of our Baptism. We celebrate our newness in Christ. I still remember that basic meaning of Baptism taught to me as I grew up. I was told that Baptism is Sacrament which cleanses us from sins, makes us Christians, children of God, and members of the Church.
I think this makes sense not only in the light of the Scripture readings of today where the post- exilic community of Israel are promised the gifts of new life of freedom and prosperity (Isa 40–55), fulfilled in the mission of Christ (Mark 1:7-11, Mtt 3:13-17, Lk 3:15-22; Jn 1:19-34).
Even when we think of the ritual of baptism it is refreshing. The oil; the white garment, the candles, the salts and the Water. Prophet Isaiah says today “Come to the waters, listen, that you may have life.” The responsorial psalm from Isaiah 12 also says, “You will draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation.” Even though water (~ym) cleanses our personal faults and spiritual impurities, water has always been a symbol of life that goes back to the beginning of creation in Genesis chapter 1.
Jesus in his interaction with Nichodemus insists that unless he is born of water and the Holy Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God (Jn3:5ff). In Baptism we are renewed in Christ. We are given a share in the supernatural life of God, the hope, the faith and the Love of God.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus by coming from Nazareth to be baptized today is not meant to show that he was a sinner. Rather Christ is identifying himself with us like the post-exilic Suffering Servant in the Prophet Isaiah . When Isaiah says, “All you who are thirsty, come to the water.” He is addressing those who had been suffering in exile without water and means of livelihood.
When he says, “you who have no money, come, receive grain and eat… for just as from heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there, till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to the ones who sows and bread to the one who eats..” he is restoring the hope of life to those who were denied “life’ in exile. And Jesus for Mark and for us Christians is not only the fulfillment of what we had been promised, but the source of this life, which we all share when we die with him in Baptism. He is mightier and stronger than John and any other power, be it satanic and worldly (Mk 1:7).
Remember, soon after the Baptism of Jesus, and on coming out from the water, there is a voice confirming Him to be God’s beloved Son, after which Jesus is led into the desert of wilderness of no water and food to be tempted by the satan (Mk 1:11-14). Just as our forefathers in faith narrated by the prophets resisted, and survived the pains, the agony the dryness of the desert experience and live to see the return to the promise land of milk and livelihood, we are all challenged to travel this road of faith and resilience against worldly powers and temptations. And this is the path of faith, the ambivalence of the wilderness that we all become initiated into during our baptism.
Christ whose baptism we celebrate today would be rejected. Being the Suffering Servant he would bear our pains and wounds. He would preach hope and love, justice, truth and forgiveness. He would resist temptation and demonic powers. As a beloved Son he will act always in obedience to the Father, doing the Father’s will. He would be the Light of the world and the Salt of the earth. By our Baptism, this is who each and every one of us is called to be.
Let us pray at this Mass that as another Christ, the Baptism of Christ we share in may remain a source of strength for us as we face the day to day challenges of our Christian living.
The Baptism of the Lord, Year C- Homily By Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
Readings: Isa 40:1-5, 9-11; Ps 104:1b-2, 3-4, 24-25, 27-28, 29-30; Ti 2:11-14; 3:4-7; Luke 3:15-16, 21-22
Baptism, a Life in Christ Jesus
Today we celebrate the Baptism of Jesus and naturally this would remind us of our own baptism, and what it means for us spiritually, as Christians. This is where we begin our journeys as Christian. This ritual washes away our sins. It renews us in Christ. It makes us Christians. It makes us members of the Church. It is a gateway to a supernatural life in Christ. By it we become brothers and sisters of Christ and adopted children of God the Father (2 Pet 1:4).
With baptism our communion with God is restored and we have access to Christ Jesus. Its importance is noted by the entire Evangelist. It is recorded in Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:4-11, John 1:19-34 and in today’s Gospel, Luke 3:15-22. St. Paul and Apostle of the Gentiles preached about it.
In Romans 6:3-4 he says,
“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized in Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life,” (read also Col 2:12 or 1 Cor 12:12-13).
Baptism brings us into the life of the Blessed Trinity- Father Son and the Holy Spirit. It infuses in all the supernatural gifts of faith, hope and love. It renews us in Christ. It renews me in Christ.
Among other things, especially those spiritual benefits that baptism brings to me I still remember, as I am told how I got my first name- Michael= who is like God. At birth I was given the name “Ufok” = oi,.koj- household of God, the pillar (itiat) and the foundation truth (1 Tim 3:15), peace and justice. But at my interview to study for the priesthood my baptism certificate was required. It was there on that certificate that I discovered for the first time that I was given “Michael” at Baptism by my God Father- Mr. Michael M. U. Eshiet, at the strict request of Fr. Walsh, the Irish Priest who presided over the ritual ceremony of my baptism. But I still cherish both names. This is just highlighting the changes, the newness, the transformation, spiritual and otherwise that baptism brings into the lives of each and every one us.
It transforms our faithlessness into faith. It transforms our hatred into love. It transforms our hopelessness into hope. It changes our suffering into joy, dead into life, comfortless into comfort. It moistures or waters our spiritual and dryness and wilderness of exile of sins. And turns the darkness of our life into Light. We see these symbolically in the elements we use during baptism: water, oils, candle lights, salt, and whites garments to name but a few.
We see this in the well selected readings of this feast. In all the three cycles the first readings are from Deutero- Isaiah (Isa 40–55), with a common message of hope, perseverance of the role of the Suffering Servants of God in the life of the exiled Israelites in Babylon. The Persian King Cyrus, who would defeat the Babylonian and freed them of course, is God’s instrument. Whatever happens to them God was in-charge. A Servant will emerge- the Glory of the Lord, who would bear their pains, bring them comfort, identify with them and lead them through their hardship, their dryness, their lack of water and food.
Isaiah 40 says” Comfort my people… go up to the mountains herald of glad tidings… herald of good news… here your God comes with power.. Like a Shepherd he feeds his flock” (cf Ps 23, Jn 10). In the Gospel of today, Luke 3:15-16,21-22, Christ, the Mightier on is empowered with this role of the Suffering Servant when after his Baptism, while praying the heaven opens, the Holy Spirit came upon him while, God empowered him saying, “ You are my beloved Son with you I am well pleased.”
This same Spirit at Baptism was with Jesus in Luke 4: 18-19, as he continues his ministry love, healing, compassion and liberation “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sights to the blind and to let the oppressed go free... ( cf Isa 61:1).
St. Paul, in the Second Reading affirms, the saving power of Baptism first to Titus, and second to us when he said, “But when the kindness and generous love of God our savior appeared… it is because of his mercy he save us through the bath of rebirth (suffering baptism and mission to the cross) and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he riches poured out on us through Jesus Christ” (Ti 3:5-8).
At Baptism, like the sinless Christ we sinners acknowledge our brokenness; identify ourselves with others in the community. We accept our mission as baptized Christians to imitate the way of the of the cross and the way of the love of Christ, not to live in malice, in disobedience, envy, hateful to ourselves or become slaves to the flesh (read Ti 3:1-3). We accept to be another Christ bearing the burdens of one another, our communities, our relatives, friends and families. We become another Christ by promoting peace and social justice, resisting temptations, sowing faith, hope and by loving our neighbors not just as ourselves, but as Christ, the Suffering Servant had first loved us. As Baptized, name ways I have been another Christ to others?
Peace be with you.