Homily Feast of the Baptism of the Lord Year C

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Homily Feast of the Baptism of the Lord Year C


Reading 1 This is one the three Servant Songs in Isaiah that identifies the future Messiah as a Servant of God. The first sentence connects us to the Gospel. “My chosen one with whom I am pleased, upon whom I put my spirit.” The coming of the Spirit upon Jesus was the sign of confirmation that God revealed to John, identifying the Messiah.


Isaiah goes on to speak further of the promised Messiah. “He will bring forth justice to the nations, not shouting.” Jesus did this through his death on the cross. Paul tells us that Jesus is our justification. We could not restore our relationship with God, because as sinners, we could not offer a perfect sacrifice to atone for our sins. But Jesus, innocent and without sin, took our sins upon himself. He embraced the cruel death of a criminal without defending himself. Though he as God had eternal, unlimited power, he chose as man to be weak and foolish, so that the cross would become our sign of victory and a sign of salvation.


There is a third aspect of the first reading that connects us to Jesus. He is a “light for the nations.” Following the lead of the Holy Spirit after his anointing at the Jordan, Jesus knew that his mission was to “open the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeons, those who live in darkness.” Jesus would quote this passage in the synagogue in Nazareth, indicating he was fulfilling the prophesy of Isaiah.


Gospel: Through the preaching of John the Baptist, the people’s anticipation of the promised Messiah was heightened. In fact, John preached that the Messiah was already here and was in their midst. Many people began to wonder if John was not the Messiah. But John knew he was not. He was sent to prepare the way for the Messiah. John’s message was a call to repentance as a preparation to receive the Messiah’s life-giving message.


John knew that his baptism was a prelude to the baptism of the Messiah. Just as John was unworthy to untie the sandals of the Messiah, so the Messiah will baptize with water, the Holy Spirit and fire. John’s baptism did not change the person; the Messiah’s baptism will bring about a radical transformation in a person’s life. As fire cleanses a rusty metal of all its defects, so the fire of the Holy Spirit will cleanse a person from all sin and restore the person to his original state of relationship with God.


Having prepared the people for the coming of the Messiah and his might deeds, John was taken aback when Jesus, his cousin, came to be baptized. Jesus did not need to be baptized for he was without sin. But Jesus chose this symbol of baptism, plunging into the waters of the Jordan as a way of publicly committing himself to the will of the Father as the Messiah. This was his yes to the Father.


While Jesus was in prayer afterwards, the Father publicly affirmed Jesus as his beloved Son with whom he was well pleased. What pleased the Father” It was the commitment of Jesus to be obedient to the Father, even to death on the cross. Jesus would lay down his life for our life, so that he may be our justification before the Father.


At the same time that the Father confirmed Jesus’ yes, the Holy Spirit anointed Jesus in his humanity with all the gifts he would need to confirm his ministry with signs and wonders as his credentials. Jesus was the pattern for us. He needed in his humanity the anointing power of the Spirit. We need the anointing power of the Spirit to fulfill our ministry as missionary disciples, who are called to witness Jesus to others.


Reading 2: Paul reminds Titus and the Christian community he was serving of the efficacy of the sacrament of a baptism. Jesus through his death and resurrection saved all two thousand years ago. But at a given moment in history, that grace of salvation was applied to each of us through the water of baptism. Paul calls it a “bath of rebirth.” We were born once naturally, but we were alienated from God because of Original Sin. Now through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, we have been justified by his grace and became “heirs in hope of eternal life.”


How are we to respond to such a great gift of mercy? We are called “to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly and devoutly in this age as we await the second coming of our Savior, calling us into the eternal life of glory with God.” Though baptism is a one-time rebirth, the renewal of our baptism is ongoing to remind us who we are, what God has done for us and in us and to recommit ourselves to live a life worthy of our calling in the present moment. 

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