Feast of Baptism of the Lord, Year B ~ January 8, 2024
BECOMING NEW CREATION
St. Gregory of Nazianzus invites us all to reflect as we today celebrate the Feast of Baptism of the Lord with words: “Christ is bathed in light; let us also be bathed in light. Christ is baptized’ let us also go down with him and rise with him”. Pope Francis addressing the congregation on this feast day said: Baptism integrates us into the body of the Church, into the holy People of God. And in this body, in this people journeying on, faith is passed down from generation to generation: it is the faith of the Church. It is the faith of Mary, our Mother, the faith of St Joseph, of St Peter, of St Andrew, of St John, the faith of the Apostles and of the Martyrs, which has come down to us, through Baptism: the chain of transmission of the faith.
At first glance, the Baptism of the Lord might seem an odd feast. Since the Catholic Church teaches that the Sacrament of Baptism is necessary for the remission of sins, particularly Original Sin, why was Christ baptized? After all, He was born without Original Sin, and He lived His entire life without sinning. Therefore, He did not need the sacrament, as we do.
Holy Father Pope Francis explains the mystery in this way “When Jesus received the baptism of repentance from John the Baptist, showing solidarity with the repentant people — He without sin and with no need for conversion — God the Father made his voice heard from heaven: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (v. 17). Jesus receives approval from the heavenly Father, who sent him precisely that he might accept to share our condition, our poverty. Sharing is the true way to love. Jesus does not dissociate himself from us, he considers us brothers and sisters and he shares with us. And so, he makes us sons and daughters, together with him, of God the Father. This is the revelation and source of true love. And this is the great time of mercy”.
In submitting Himself humbly to the baptism of St. John the Baptist, however, Christ provided the example for the rest of us. If even He should be baptized, though He did not need it, how much more should the rest of us be thankful for this sacrament, which frees us from the darkness of sin and incorporates us into the Church, the life of Christ on earth! His Baptism, therefore, was necessary—not for Him, but for us.
Many of the Fathers of the Church, as well as the medieval Scholastics, saw Christ’s Baptism as the institution of the sacrament. His Flesh blessed the water, and the descent of the Holy Spirit (in the form of a dove) and the voice of God the Father announcing that this was His Son, in Whom He was well pleased, marked the beginning of Christ’s public ministry. St. Paul sees baptism as a source of dying with Him and rising back to life with him: “Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.
In fact, there is an invocation which the liturgy has us repeat during the Season of Advent: “O that thou wouldst rend the heavens and come down” (Is 64:1). If the heavens remain closed, our horizon in this earthly life is dark and without hope. Instead, in celebrating Christmas, once again faith has given us the certainty that the heavens have been rent with the coming of Christ. And on the day of the baptism of Christ we continue to contemplate the heavens opened. The manifestation of the Son of God on earth marks the beginning of the great time of mercy, after sin had closed the heavens, raising itself as a barrier between the human being and his Creator. With the birth of Jesus, the heavens open! God gives us in Christ the guarantee of an indestructible love. From the moment the Word became flesh it is therefore possible to see the open heavens. It was possible for the shepherds of Bethlehem, for the Magi of the East, for the Baptist, for Jesus’ Apostles, and for St Stephen, the first martyr, who exclaimed: “Behold, I see the heavens opened!” (Acts 7:56). And it is possible for each one of us, if we allow ourselves to be suffused with God’s love, which is given to us for the first time in Baptism by means of the Holy Spirit. Let us allow ourselves to be invaded by God’s love! This is the great time of mercy! Do not forget it: this is the great time of Mercy!
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For whoever has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him” (Romans 6:4-8). “Jesus rises from the waters; the world rises with him. The heavens like Paradise with its flaming sword, closed by Adam for himself and his descendants, are rent open. The Spirit comes to him as to an equal, bearing witness to his Godhead. A voice bears witness to him from heaven, his place of origin. The Spirit descends in bodily form like the dove that so long ago announced the ending of the flood and so gives honor to the body that is one with God” as St. Gregory explained.
Through Baptism we not only leave our old life of sin, but we have become new a creation in Him who took our nature to be like us but sin. In Baptism we are consecrated by the Holy Spirit. This is what the word “Christian” means, it means consecrated like Jesus, in the same Spirit in which Jesus was immersed throughout his earthly existence. St. Paul reminds everyone of us to have same mind, like Jesus “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:5-8).
He is the “Christ”, the Anointed One, the Consecrated One; we, the baptized, are “Christian”, meaning consecrated, anointed. Baptism makes us to walk with him as his brothers and sisters remembering if we have died with him, we will also rise with him too. Let us today remember our Baptismal vows and live our lives accordingly so that we may inherit eternal life. Through the Baptism of the Lord, we share into his divinity and become new creations in the Holy Spirit which keep filling our hearts and minds to follow him who died on the Cross to give us eternal life.
Other Sermons In This Series
September 08, 2022
July 22, 2022
February 03, 2023