Homily (alternative)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” bayit , dynasty = oi,.koj- household of God, the pillar (itiat) and the foundation truth (1 Tim 3:15), peace and justice, promised us by the Lord ( 2 Sam 7). 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 dryness or 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 of 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.