First Sunday in Ordinary Time (The Baptism of the Lord) Year A- Homily By Fr. Michael Udoekpo
Readings: Isa 42:1-4, 6-7;Ps 29:1-2, 3-4,3,9-10; Acts 10:34-38 and Matt 3:13-17
Baptism, Christ’s Gifts to us
I remember when I was a little boy studying Catechism for my first Holy Communion. A group of us were asked what the most memorable days in our lives were. One of us said, the Day Mummy bought him ice cream. The other said “the day she went out with Daddy to watch a movie.” While the older one said, “the day he turned sixteen.” It is easier to remember everything, including the day of our weddings and ordination than the day of our Baptism. Yet, the day we were baptized is one of the most important birthdays in our lives in Christ Jesus. The day we were “born again” as sons and daughters of God (Jn 3:5), and the day we contemplate the significance of Baptism which Christ had first taught us, by allowing himself to be baptized by John in the Jordan River (Matt 3:13-17), as a Suffering Servant of YHWH=hwhy db[ ( Isa 42:1-4, 6-7) guided by the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:34-38) in obedience to the saving will of God the Father.
Baptism is the gateway to life. Today we celebrate Christ’s Baptism. The establishment of Baptism by Christ as the means through which we are brought to new life in Christ, forgiveness of sins and the gifts of divine life through the Holy Spirit who comes to dwell in our lives.
Often we do ask “if baptism washes away our sins why did the sinless Christ undergo the ritual of baptism? Remember during our Christmas sharing what Jesus learnt from Mary and Joseph- how to keep those basic Jewish laws and customs, walking back to the temple annually, paying taxes. As human and God, through his deliberate baptism, Jesus, the sinless God-man identified himself with (us) sinners and to fulfill all righteousness,(plhrw/sai pa/san diakaiosu,nh), even though John tried to prevent Jesus when he said, “I need to be baptized by you and yet you are coming to me”(Matt 13:14)- recognizing the superiority of Jesus. Jesus’ baptism in fulfillment of all righteousness = (plhrw/sai pa/san diakaiosu,nh), not only points at Jesus’ relationship with God in terms of his obedience to the Father who sent him, to fulfill God’s purpose of salvation, but to identify himself with the penitent people to whom John had preached repentant and the need for righteousness to- Christian way of living (Matt 21:32). Through Baptism, Jesus the sinless God-man accepts, inaugurates and identifies his ministry with that of the suffering Servant of God in Deutoro- Isaiah (Isa 49:1-6; 50:4-11; 52:13–53:12;Isa42:1-4,6-7), whose mission was to bear all kinds of sufferings on behalf of the people and to bring justice, judgment and salvation to everyone as God’s agent: “ Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, upon whom I have put my spirit, he shall bring forth justice to the nations.”
By his Baptism (Lk 3:15-22; Mark 1:4-11; John 1:19-34) Jesus, and the sinless God –man opens the heavens that were once closed by the sins of our first parents (Gen 3). For “After Jesus was baptized he came up from the water and behold the heavens were opened for him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming upon him (Matt 3:13-17).”
By his Baptism Jesus left for us the means by which we are spiritually reborn (Jn 3:5-12) and are restored in communion with God. It is a gate way to life. Nichodemus was told, “Unless you are born of water and the Holy Spirit you cannot enter into the Kingdom of God.” (Jn 3:3-6). And after the Ascension, Jesus said to the disciples, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” We become adopted children of God sharing in his divine nature (2 Pet 1:4), “this is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased” (Matt 3:17). Baptism which Christ instituted brings us into the life of the Blessed Trinity. We are infused with virtues of faith, hope and love (1 Cor 13) and we become temple of the Holy Spirit, new creation and living members of the Church, the Body of Christ.
Just as the Baptism of Christ inaugurates his public ministry of Jesus - multiplying bread and fish, healing the sick, forgiving sinners and raising the dead, Baptism initiates us into Christian life with Christ- to be another Christ in our relationship with one another.
As we celebrate the feast of the baptism of Christ today, may we continue to cherish the fact that the day we were baptized is the most important day of our lives as imitators of Christ in obedience to God and his will? Baptism is a gift to us. And may we like Christ, through the graces of our baptism be sources and conduit of peace, obedience to God, endurance, hope, joy happiness and loving service for one another.