Thursday, January 8, 2015

Homily (4) Baptism of the Lord Year B: Fr. Michael Udoekpo

Homily (4) Baptism of the Lord Year B: Fr. Michael Udoekpo
Readings: Isa 42:1-4, 6-7; Ps 29:1-4, 3, 9-10; Acts 10:34-38 (Alternative Readings for YB): Isa 55:1-11; Isa 12:2-3, 4bcd-6; 1 John 5:1-9 and Mark 1:7-11

 Come to the Waters; listen, that you may have life!
 Come to the waters, fetch it, all you who are thirsty that you may have life! This Prophecy of Isaiah 55, rhymes with the rest of today’s Scripture readings, and with the spirit of our celebration, the Baptism of Christ. It also gives meaning to our Christian baptism. Baptism gives foundation to our faith. Baptism washes away our sins, gives us the power, the freedom, the liberty to reject and renounce Satan.  With it “we are no longer slaves, but brothers and sisters,” as rightly articulated by Pope Francis in his 2015 new year Message. Baptism gives us that faith, the hope, and the grace to choose to do good and to avoid evil. With it we learn to love, bridge barriers, heal divisions, and are humbled. We learn to forgive, endure, and learn to tolerate others, the poor, the rich alike. It initiates us into the Christian life. We become soldiers of Christ and the light of the world. Think of the sacramental elements used during baptism, light, oils, candles, water, white linens, and even the feast after that, etc. With it we are born again in Christ, in the Spirit, and become God’s beloved adopted sons and daughters, “unless you are born again you cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:3-5).

In today’s Gospel Jesus is baptized by John in the Jordan River. Coming up from the water, he sees the heavens open and the Holy Spirit in form of a dove descending upon him. He also hears a voice form heaven saying, “You are my beloved son; with whom I am well pleased,” (Mk 1:7-11). Are we listening? What are we seeing in the baptism of Christ! What are we hearing from today’s Bible readings? Or from today’s celebration!

Partly, perhaps, it is that Christ, a beloved son of God, sinless, submitted himself through the symbolic ritual of baptism not only in anticipation of his suffering, trials, death and resurrection, but to teach humanity humility as a requirement for a “life in Christ.” In his sermon Saint Augustine says, Christ, “desired to be baptized, so that he might freely proclaim through his humility what for us was to be a necessity’ (cf. Sermon 51, 33).

Isn’t this necessity pictured in the metaphorical banquet foretold by Isaiah in today’s first reading (Isa 55:1-11): “all you who are thirsty, come to the water? You who have no money, come, receive grain and eat; come without paying and without cost, drink wine and milk! Why spend your money… Listen that you may have life! I will renew with you the everlasting covenant, the benefits assured to David.”

 The Baptism of the Lord invites us to come and share in the heritage of the servant of the Lord (40-55): the waters of justice, freedom, peace, the heritage of selflessness, the spirit of the common good, the heritage to love the poor, the spirit of inclusivism, the spirit to love and be faithful to the Church, the spirit to renounce sins, and the spirit to always love and pray for one another, especially those who are spiritually, morally and materially thirsty, or once exiled from the truth and the love of God, or had experienced difficulties in the past. Listening, changing hearts, seeking the Lord or willingness to come to this banquet are required of us, especially in a world full of other noises and distractions. In Christ’s banquet, in the Church, pardon, mercy, and love of God are available (Isa 55:6-7).

On the day of our Baptism each of us are brought into God’s house without material cost, but guided by the Spirit of God, without force!  It is a free renewal! No money is required for this banquet! Eat as you can! The wine and milk are free as promised Abraham and his descendants! Those promises are fulfilled in baptism! Only bring yourself!  Only listen and profess the Lord! Come into the gate of life! The love of God is free, the forgiveness of sin and the resurrection of the dead! In baptism we die with Christ. In baptism we rise with Christ!

In Baptism we receive God’s grace, love and faith. Johns speaks of this faith in the second reading:  “everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is begotten by God, and everyone who loves the Father loves also the one begotten by him….whoever is begotten by God conquers the world. And the victory that conquers the world is our faith in Christ, who came through water and blood” (1 John 5:1-9).

As we celebrate the feast Christ's  baptism today, may we contemplate the meaning of our Christian baptism. May we, in our changing world of today, plagued with religious extremism, division, poverty of food, and even drinking waters;  terrorism and threats of war, diseases without immediate cure, continue to cherish our faith, gifts of been pardoned and loved by God as his beloved sons and daughters. And may we like our brother Christ, through the grace of our baptism be sources and conduits of life, peace, waters of spiritual refreshment, humility, attentive to the faith, obedience to God’s will, endurance, light of  hope, white garment of joy, happiness and loving service for one another.

Come to the Waters, Listen that You May Have Life!


Homily (alternate 4): The Baptism of the Lord, Year B:  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.