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Homily for the Baptism of the Lord

January 10, 2020

Fr. Joseph Jacobi

With today’s feast of the Baptism of the Lord, we come to the end of this Christmas Season.

During the past 2 weeks we have gone from the manger to the Jordan River, from encountering Jesus as the babe of Mother Mary to seeing him as the Beloved Son of God His Father, sanctifying the waters of the Jordan.

With the magi, we adored him as the newborn King hidden from the world, to now we see him beginning his public ministry at the age of 30, bursting forth onto the world scene after his baptism by John.

This feast concludes the Christmas Season as a very strong reminder that the Son of God became the Son of Mary not only to save us from sin and death but also to share divine life with us.

The Son of God takes on our human nature so we can share in his divine nature. The 2nd person of the Most Holy Trinity, the Eternal Word, comes into the world as the Son of Mary so we human beings might become sons and daughters of God.

It is mind-boggling— God’s burning desire is to share God’s life with us. God’s love for us seen in Jesus is a love inviting us into Communion with the divine.

God’s sends His Only Beloved Son into the world is not out of pity— look at these poor, pitiable creatures that need saving— but out of love, longing to share divine life with all humanity.

For joined to God’s Son in the waters of baptism, we have indeed become daughters and sons of God.

The meaning of all baptisms can be found in this one baptism in the River Jordan. If you want to understand the beauty and the power and the mystery of your own baptism, plunge deeply into this account of Jesus’ baptism. As the fully human Jesus comes up from the waters of the Jordan, the Spirit comes down. Through that hole in the heavens flies the Spirit like a dove, the Spirit of love, which rests upon Jesus and upon all who are baptized into Him.

Then comes the Father’s tender voice, “You are my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Though we may not have been aware of this voice of the Father at our baptism, the same voice whispers in the ear of our soul every time we bless ourselves with holy water. “You are my beloved son, my beloved daughter.” Every time we shower or swim or drink, water calls forth the Father’s voice, resounding from the center of our being: “You are my beloved daughter, my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.”

Beneath the surface disturbances of our life, beneath all the failures and the sins, beneath the doubts and the fears is this current of divine life, the water of life, from which we drink and from which we hear how we always will be children of God in whom God delights.

At our own baptism, we were immersed into this saving truth— because of the Incarnation of the Son of God and because of His baptism in the Jordan River, there are no longer any barriers between humans and God, between the human and divine.

With Jesus’ baptism, God has aligned God’s self forever with sinful humanity. Remember John’s baptism is for sinners, and even though Jesus is without sin, he allows John to baptize him. By this act of loving union with humanity, the heavens are no longer closed, but torn open forever.

Jesus’ baptism signals the beginning of his public ministry. He will rise up from the waters of the Jordan and go into the world to teach others about God’s love and how to love God and neighbor. He will heal those who are broken and free those imprisoned by the power of evil. He will announce good news to the poor, open the eyes of those blinded to God’s goodness, and in him and through him others will learn of God’s favor, God’s pleasure.

Jesus’ mission is our mission. Our baptism signals the beginning of this mission, which is ongoing until our last breath. For those of us baptized as infants, we come to this mission gradually as we learn from parents, godparents, and the Christian community what it looks like to love God and neighbor.

At the beginning of the baptismal ritual, the parents of the child to be baptized are addressed by the minister: “You have asked to have your child baptized. In doing so you are accepting the responsibility of training him/her in the practice of the faith. It will be your duty to bring your child up to keep God’s commandments as Christ taught us, by loving God and neighbor.” The duty of Christians parents, with the help of godparents and the Christian community, is to initiate their newly baptized children into the mission of transforming the world by loving God and neighbor.

Baptism is our birth into the family of God, our being joined to the Son by the Holy Spirit in order to become a child of God. The weekly celebration of the Eucharist strengthens that identity. As food gives strength to the physical part of our being, so this food come down from heaven strengthens the life of the Spirit within us. With every celebration of the Mass, we are invited to grow more and more into this life with the Lord Jesus. We are to become more and more open to the Holy Spirit, the dove who is love, who conquers the world through us with the humble power of love.

For we have been given a mission by God, who calls each of us by name, to be in a world beset by so much chaos and cruelty: instruments of peace, advocates of mercy, and bearers of joy and reconciliation, We have been given this mission by our Heavenly Father, who keeps calling us His beloved.

For Jesus, his baptism not only propelled him into his public ministry but assured him that he would not be on mission alone. Rather, the Father would accompany Him with his love and good pleasure and the Spirit would empower Him in loving. Jesus would never be alone, even at the cross.

I recently blessed a crucifix which revealed this truth. It had the tortured body of Jesus on it supported by the Father’s embrace and the Spirit flowing out of that tender embrace at the cross.

So it is true for us, as we go through our life living from this deepest, most real identity of ours as God’s beloved daughters and sons.

We are never alone, though we may feel alone at times.

We are sustained by the Father’s love, forever joined to Son, & empowered by Spirit.