Baptism of the Lord - Jan 13 - Homily and Stories

Introduction: 

Wash Off the Stuff of the Day: 
One of the most successful and personable people on television is Oprah Winfrey. Movies, book clubs, she does it all. Huge business operations. While all the other talk shows on television are tearing people apart and putting all their illnesses out for public humiliation, Oprah is helping put people and families back together again. . . In a Newsweek magazine interview the interviewer asked her, "How do you separate yourself from work?" Answer, "I take a hot bath. . . My bath is my sanctuary. (Listen to this) It's the place where I can wash off all the stuff of the day" ((Jan 8, 2001, p. 45).
Baptism is a huge symbol -- it's the water of creation. . . .we are born anew. . . . life in the Spirit . . . all the "stuff" of the day is washed off. All of that is true. But at its basic level, baptism is the death of the old self. Before anything new can be born, the old has to pass away. (Brett Blair)
 
The Baptism of the Lord is the great event celebrated by the Eastern churches on the feast of Epiphany, because it is the occasion of the first public revelation of all the Three Persons in the Holy Trinity, and the official revelation of Jesus as the Son of God to the world by God the Father. It is also an event described by all the four gospels, and it marks the beginning of Jesus' public ministry. The liturgical season of Christmas comes to a conclusion this Sunday with the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord. The 13th century king of France, St. Louis IX (1226-70), insisted that the grand celebration of his birthday should be held on the day of his baptism, and not on his birthday proper. His argument was that baptism was the beginning of a life that would continue for eternity in the everlasting glory of heaven. 

John the Baptist had already been baptising people before Jesus began his public ministry. John explained that his baptism was with water whereas Jesus’ baptism would be with water, the Holy Spirit and fire. The difference between the two baptisms was significant. Nevertheless, Jesus chose to be baptised by John in the River Jordan.

Jesus’ baptism was a defining moment in his life. It marked a departure from the years of relative anonymity (the hidden years, as they have sometimes been described) and the beginning of three years of public ministry. His baptism affected him greatly. He was revealed by the Father as being divine as well as human. He was commissioned to do the Father’s will and he was assured that the Father’s favour would be with him throughout his ministry.

During that ministry Jesus preached the Good News of salvation, worked many miracles and, ultimately, died on the cross to save us and all people from the consequences of sin. His ministry was effectively living the baptised life in union with God.

The sacrament of baptism is meant to be a defining moment in the lives of Christians. At baptism we are cleansed from sin through sharing in Christ’s death and resurrection. We are chosen by God to be agents and instruments of the Good News.

Thus baptism marks the abandonment of sin and the acceptance of God’s grace, which is given to us through Jesus Christ. We become brothers and sisters in Christ and our membership of the Church is initiated. Thereafter, our lives can never be the same again. There is a radical difference in our dignity and identity, provided that we assimilate the meaning of baptism in our lives.

The basic task for every Christian, then, is to live the baptised life. This means that we need to recognise that we have been chosen by God to share in Jesus’ life and ministry. It involves welcoming the presence of the Holy Spirit into our lives who, working through the Church, influences our decisions. Living the baptised life requires us to imitate the teaching of Christ and his Church. We reject sin and we teach others by our inspired words and good example. Only then can God say to each one of us: ‘You are my son/daughter; my beloved; my favour rests on you’ (see Luke 3:22). Therefore, baptism offers us a new identity in Christ.

Unfortunately, however, the effects of baptism are often more symbolic than real. There are only minor changes in our lives and we continue to sin. We do not permit the grace of baptism to affect our attitudes and behaviour and there is little or no evidence of genuine conversion. If we are honest, we may admit that we might as well have never been baptised because baptism makes no difference to our lives.

The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord challenges us to reflect on our baptism and its significance in our lives. At a time when many people have abandoned God it is imperative that Christians are committed to living the baptised life. Unless we are faithful to our baptismal promises by rejecting evil and being obedient to Christ, we cannot claim to be authentic disciples and we cannot be genuine witnesses to the Good News.

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Michel de Verteuil: General Comments

The Baptism of the Lord is told in all four gospels with each one giving its own slant. We must be faithful to the text before us – St Luke’s version. The story can be read from different perspectives; in our meditation we are free to choose the one which corresponds best to our experience.

• It is first of all an extraordinary religious experience. St Luke’s is the only version which says that Jesus “was at prayer”. Luke does not emphasize the actual baptism at all, but presents it as the prelude to the main event – the descent of the Holy Spirit and the voice from heaven.

We should enter fully into the images:

- “Heaven opened” indicates that all dualism is broken down – between God and humanity, between humanity and nature.
- “The Holy Spirit descended in bodily shape, like a dove” – the experience of the Holy Spirit is vivid but very gentle.
- “A voice came from heaven” should be interpreted in the same spirit as the coming of the Holy Spirit. It is so vivid and so gentle that it could only have come from heaven.
The voice makes three statements, each with its own importance:
- “You are my son” – in the Bible, divine sonship is attributed to kings, usually on the occasion of their enthronement; royal power is conferred on Jesus.
- “The beloved” – Jesus is assured that he is loved tenderly, as a bridegroom is loved by his bride.
- “My favour rests on you” says that God’s love remains permanently with him – it is not something temporary. We are reminded of Jesus’ words at the Last Supper, “As the Father has loved me so I have loved you, remain in my love” (John 5:9).
• Verses 21 and 22 make no reference to the historical context, but the inclusion of verses 15 and 16 in the liturgical reading reminds us that Jesus’ baptism took place when John the Baptist’s ministry was about to come to an end. The baptism was therefore Jesus’ call to public ministry. This fits the biblical pattern by which a call to do God’s work is always preceded by a deep experience of God, e.g. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Gideon in the Old Testament, Mary and Zechariah in the New. 

Experience bears out that this pattern of a deep personal experience leading to a new commitment occurs in the lives of many people. It happened to saints such as Augustine, Ignatius of Loyola, Teresa of Avila and Margaret Mary, and to many other great men and women. We can identify a similar pattern in our own lives too.

• Even though, as noted above, St Luke downplays Jesus’ baptism, we are free to focus on it. St Luke notes that Jesus came forward “when all the people had been baptised,” inviting us to see him as entering into solidarity with those who had come to John for baptism.

• In St Luke’s version, Jesus’ baptism was a personal experience. It happened when he was “at prayer” and “the voice which came from heaven” was addressed to him – “You are…”. This interpretation is not insisted on, however, so we have the latitude to interpret the story as a proclamation to the bystanders. It then becomes the story of when we perceive the spark of divinity in someone we previously looked down on.

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Thomas O’Loughlin: Homily notes 

1. Between today and the end of next November, except for some special days around Easter, we will be reading pas­sages from St Luke’s gospel each Sunday at the Eucharist. This year is known in the order of our readings as ‘the year of Luke’.

2. We can divide his gospel into three parts: the first deals with the events before and around the birth of Jesus (and we have just read this portion over Christmas; the third part deals with the last week of Jesus’s life in Jerusalem, his passion, death, and resurrection (and we will read this at Easter); and in between we have all the preaching and miracles of Jesus during his public ministry which St Luke sets out as taking place as Jesus moves along the road from Nazareth to Jerusalem.

3. This central part of the gospel- the teaching and preaching with recollections of healings and meals – all belong to what we traditionally call the public ministry of Jesus, his adult life, his activity among the people of Israel. It is this central part of the gospel that provides the passages for the ordinary Sundays during the coming year. This central part opens with the great scene of the baptism in the Jordan we have just read when Jesus takes over from John the Baptist. The work of the time of preparation is over; the time of the work of the Christ has begun.

4. Luke places this wondrous scene – the two great prophets meeting, and then the Father’s voice being heard and the Spirit appearing in the form of a dove – at the beginning of the public ministry to show us that this is the mysterious in­auguration of the new age of the Christ. He also does it so that when we hear what follows – Jesus doing this or that, saying this or that, meeting this person and then that person – we will keep in mind the full identity of the One we call ‘Lord’.

5. Luke presents us with a highly visual mysterious scene – pic­ture it in your minds – of Jesus and John in the river, crowds of followers around and then from above the heavenly voice and the dove: this is the true identity of Jesus. Jesus is a human being like us, the final prophet, the uniquely beloved Son of God, the one empowered by the Spirit, the revelation of the Father, Emmanuel – God with us, the glory of God made manifest to us.

6. We have to keep this wondrous image of Jesus in the Jordan, the revelation of his true identity, in our minds as we move onwards in our recollection of his words and deeds in the weeks and months ahead.

7. There are now between 345 and 351 shopping days before next Christmas.
 
Prayer reflection

“In discovering the Father, Jesus has found an ‘other’ (‘I and the Father are one’);
in the Spirit he has discovered his non-duality with Yahweh.”
Abhishiktanda (Dom Henri Le Saulx)
Lord, we thank you for deep prayer experiences when we are truly one with Jesus.
They always come to us as your free gift, unexpectedly,
after a long time of struggle when we felt we were drowning,
abandoned by all, including you.
After we have been baptised in these waters of loneliness, suddenly
- heaven opens and we feel at one with the universe,
the sun, the moon and the stars all seem close;
- your Holy Spirit descends on us, his powerful but gentle presence so vivid
that it is almost in a bodily shape like a dove;
- we hear a voice resonating so deeply within us we know it must come from heaven,
- telling us that we are not aliens in the world but princes and princesses,
members of your royal family,
- that we are beloved,
- and we must never allow ourselves to feel abandoned
since your favour rests forever on us.
Thank you, Lord.

Lord, remind us that we do not dare enter your presence
except we are in communion with the rest of humanity,
and especially with the humblest of our brothers and sisters,
- those written off as sinners by our Church community;
- the victims of racism, sexism, elitism and religious persecution;
- abandoned by their families because they are HIV positive;
- those who are mentally or physically handicapped.
It is only when, like Jesus, we have had our own baptism of solidarity with them
that we can enter confidently into prayer,
- look for the heavens to be opened,
- – your Holy Spirit to descend on us in bodily shape like a dove,
- your voice to assure us that we are your Sons and Daughters, your beloved,
and that your favour rests on us.

“The more a Christian community is rooted in the experience of God,
the more credibly it will be able to proclaim to others the fulfilment
of God’s Kingdom in Jesus Christ.”
Ecclesia in Asia
Lord, before we embark on a new direction in our lives
- the religious life, or marriage,
- a political involvement,
- going to a foreign country to improve ourselves,
- giving up a secure job so that we can serve the poor,
teach us to first humble ourselves before you, as Jesus did.
Only after we have been baptised will the heavens be opened,
the Spirit descend on us in bodily shape, like a dove,
and your voice will proclaim that we are your Beloved
and your favour rests on us. Then, like Jesus,
we will be ready to commit ourselves to the new venture you have called us to.
Lord, forgive us that as a Church we tend to come to others
with feelings of superiority.
Help us rather to see your son Jesus in whatever culture,
Ethnic group, race or social class you invite us to enter.
The world may describe them as backward, primitive, third world,
unemployable or lazy;
we pray that we will stand before them with respect
until we see the heavens opened and the Holy Spirit descending on them,
gently like a dove, and hear your voice proclaiming mightily
that these are your Sons and Daughters, your Beloved,
and that your favour rests on them.
 
ILLUSTRATIONS: 

1. A tiger cub discovers its identity: 
 
There is an old Hindu parable about a tiger cub raised by goats. The cub learned to bleat and nibble grass and behave like a goat. One night a tiger attacked the goats, which scattered for safety. But the tiger cub kept grazing and crying like a goat without getting frightened. The old tiger roared, "What are you doing here, living with these cowardly goats?" He grabbed the cub by the scruff, dragged him to a pond and said: "Look how our faces reflected in water? Now you know who you are and whose you are." The tiger took the cub home, taught him how to catch animals, eat their meat, roar and act like a tiger. The tiger cub thus discovered his true self. Today’s gospel seems to suggest that Jesus received from heaven a fresh flash of realization of who, and Whose, he really was (his identity) and what he was supposed to do (his mission), on the day of his baptism in the river Jordan.

2: Identity of the peanut scientist:  

Fr. Bill Bausch describes in one of his books George Washington Carver, the great black scientist who did a lot with the lowly peanut, both medically and commercially. He built a great industry through his scientific endeavors. In January 1921 he was brought to Washington, D.C., to the Ways and Means Committee to explain his work on the peanut. He expected such a high-level committee to handle the business at hand with him and those who had come with him with dignity and proper decorum. As a black man, he was last on the list and so, after three days, he finally walked up the aisle to speak. And on the way up he heard one of the committee members say – and quite loudly for all to hear – "I suppose you have plenty of peanuts and watermelon to keep you happy!" He ignored the remark as an ignorant jibe, although it stung him. He was further hurt on seeing another committee member sitting there with his hat on and his feet on the table remarking: "I don’t see what this fellow can say that has any bearing on this committee."

At this point George Washington Carver was ready to turn around and go back home, but he said, as he wrote in his autobiography, "Whatever they said of me, I knew that I was a child of God, and so I said to myself inwardly, ‘Almighty God, let me carry out your will.’" He got to the podium and was told that he had twenty minutes to speak. Carver opened up his display case and began to explain his project. Well, so engaging was his discussion that those twenty minutes went all too quickly and the chairman rose and asked for an extension so he could continue his presentation, which he did for an hour and three-quarters. They voted him four more extensions so he spoke for several hours. At the end of his talk they all stood up and gave him a long round of applause. And all that happened because he knew who, and Whose, he was and because he refused to be defined by the labels of his culture. "Whatever they said of me, I knew I was a child of God." So one function of this, our feast – this Baptism of the Lord – is to remind us of who, and Whose, we are. 

3: The weather is always a good source for small talk.

In these dark and dreary days of January, that "small talk" is probably even smaller - meaner and more morose. Whether it's chatting at the check-out stand with a cashier, or making conversation in the cramped quarters of a slow moving elevator, this time of year "weather talk" isn't likely to be upbeat.
"I hate the snow!"
"Don't' you just love what the salt does to your shoes, your car, your clothes?"
"Tornado warnings in January? Really!!"
"It's dark when I go out in the morning and dark when I get home after work. I haven't seen daylight in weeks!"
"Why does every parking spot come equipped with its own giant puddle?"

Everyday grouses of everyday glitches. But they give our casual conversations and interactions a kind of "survivor" camaraderie. Verbalizing all our gripes might bind us together. But it doesn't lift us up. We're still all stuck in the same dreary day.
I'm going to guess that every one of you here this morning has a pet peeve. [You might want to make this an interactive moment, revealing one of your pet peeves and then asking for theirs. For example, one of my pet peeves is rudeness. Why are People So Rude? Why can't people be gracious and kind to one another? Here are some of my pet peeves of rudeness . . . In a store, the checkout people don't talk to you because they're talking to one another. When you hold the door open for someone, and they blast by you, and don't even look at you, forget about saying "thank you." The use of offensive, crude language in public does to me what a red rag does to a bull. Rude cell phone usage . . . Why can't people "Set Your Phasers on Stun!" . . . Sometimes I want to go up to people who are nice to each other and congratulate them for NOT being rude. . . .. See how easy it is to go on and on with "pet peeves?" 

Why is it so easy to talk, tweet, or text all of our favorite "pet peeves" of the day, and not so easy to pay attention to and pass on those things that bring the gift of joy to a mundane moment in each day?...
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4: Meaning of Baptism 

Those who are baptized in Jesus do not need to strive after a new life. They have already attained new life through dying with Christ. But they do need to nurture that new life so it can grow and mature. That's what church is for. That's what Bible study is for. That's what prayer is for. It is like the Parable of the Sower. Many of those seeds sprouted up, but only a few grew into maturity. The rest withered and died. 

A wealthy businessman was horrified to see a fisherman sitting beside his boat, playing with a small child.
"Why aren't you out fishing?" asked the businessman.
"Because I caught enough fish for one day, "replied the fisherman.
"Why don't you catch some more?"
"What would I do with them?"
"You could earn more money," said the businessman. "Then with the extra money, you could buy a bigger boat, go into deeper waters, and catch more fish. Then you would make enough money to buy nylon nets. With the nets, you could catch even more fish and make more money. With that money you could own two boats, maybe three boats. Eventually you could have a whole fleet of boats and be rich like me."
"Then what would I do?" asked the fisherman.
"Then," said the businessman, "you could really enjoy life."
The fisherman looked at the businessman quizzically and asked, "What do you think I am doing now?"

The baptism of Jesus is dying to our self-centered endeavors and being resurrected into a life marked by grace and love. When we live in the baptism of Jesus, we touch the hearts of others and help open them to the Holy Spirit and new life in Christ. Are you living and growing in the new life you have been given?

Paul Peterson, The Waters of Death.
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5: Washed Away in a New Beginning 

Some of you may have seen the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou. This is a whimsical retelling of Homer's Odyssey set in 1930s Mississippi. Three hapless escaped convicts--Everett, Pete and Delmar--are hiding out in the woods, running from the law. There they encounter a procession of white-robed people going down to the lake to be baptized. As they move toward the water they sing, "Let's go down to the river and pray." As the baptism ceremony begins, Delmar is overwhelmed by the beauty and the mystery of this rite. He runs into the water and is baptized by the minister. As he returns to his companions, he declares that he is now saved and "neither God nor man's got nothing on me now." He explains that the minister has told him that all his sins have been washed away. Even, he says, when he stole the pig for which he'd been convicted. "But you said you were innocent of that," one of his fellow convicts exclaims.

"I lied," he says, "and that's been washed away too!"

Later the three convicts steal a hot pie from a window sill. The one who felt that his sins had been washed away returns and places a dollar bill on the window sill.  

Delmar wasn't made perfect by his baptism any more than any of the rest of us are made perfect by our baptism. But he was conscious that it was time for him to make a new beginning. That is why in understanding baptism we begin with the washing away of our sins.

King Duncan
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6: Habits

The American educator, Horace Mann, described the predicament of habits saying: "Habit is a cable; we weave a thread of it every day, and at last we cannot break it." Mr. Mann, you are only half right. Habit is a cable; we weave a thread of it every day, but it can be broken? There is One who will help you break it, if you desire it. Habits are often practiced without guilt, justified through cleverly devised mental schemes. We have to be continuously converted all the days of our lives, continually to turn to God as children. Life is a continuous conversion. In every setting in which we are put we have to "put on the new person." There are whole areas of our lives which have not yet been brought into subjection, and it can only be done by this continuous conversion.

James T. Garrett
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7: Baptism: Take My Good Name 

French writer Henri Barbusse (1874-1935) tells of a conversation overheard in a trench full of wounded men during the First World War. One of the men, who knew he only had minutes to live says to one of the other man, "Listen, Dominic, you've led a very bad life. Everywhere you are wanted by the police. But there are no convictions against me. My name is clear, so, here, take my wallet, take my papers, my identity, take my good name, my life and quickly, hand me your papers that I may carry all your crimes away with me in death." 

The Good News is that through Jesus, God makes a similar offer. Something wonderful happens to us when we are baptized. When we are baptized, we identify ourselves with Jesus. We publicly declare our intention to strive to be like Jesus and follow God's will for our lives. When we are baptized, our lives are changed. We see things differently than before. We see other people differently than before. Baptism enables and empowers us to do the things that Jesus wants us to do here and now. We are able to identify with Jesus because He was baptized. And we are able to love as he loved. Such identification is life changing. That kind of identification shapes what we believe and claims us.

Billy D. Strayhorn
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8: What's The Holy Spirit?

A minister named Al was pursuing a doctoral degree in theology. He worked long hours on his dissertation, so many hours, in fact, that his children often entered the study to interrupt. "Daddy, can you come out and play?"
"Sorry, kids," he replied, "I have too much work to do."
"What are you working on, Daddy?"
Well, he couldn't really give the title of his dissertation, which was something like "the experiential dimension of the divine pneumatological reality." So he said, "I'm writing about experiences of the Holy Spirit."

They looked at him with blank faces and said, "What's that?"

One day Al and his family were sitting in church. They had not expected much that morning, he says. The pastor was soft-spoken and meek. He never said anything very clearly, but everybody liked him. This particular Sunday was different. The pastor stood up and preached a powerful sermon on racial equality. This was during the sixties, in the South, in a white, middle and upper class congregation. People sat transfixed as the preacher laid his career on the line, perhaps even laid his life on the line.
"The day is coming," he said, "when all God's children, white and black, will join hands in worship and service. And that day is upon us."
The congregation left in shock. People couldn't understand how their mild, housebroken preacher could suddenly have been filled with such fire. On the way home, it occurred to Al what had happened. "Kids," he said, "remember how sometimes I go up to my study to write about the Holy Spirit?"

One of the children said, "Yeah, but Daddy, what's the Holy Spirit all about?"

Al said, "We got a good picture today, in church."
They saw the power of God, pushing us to a day when every hand shall join in mission, when every voice shall join in praising the Lord. It is no empty promise.
Why, that power was given to us right over there ... at the baptismal font.

 William G. Carter
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 9: God's Getting Better at It

Since the beginning God has attempted to get people's attention and to call them into a commitment to live with principles, values, and sense of sacredness that God wants from all humanity. Sometimes the people heard and responded to God, and sometimes they ignored God.

God kept trying. God kept working at getting their attention. I heard about a little girl who sort of understands that about God. She was sitting on her grandfather's lap as he read her a bedtime story. From time to time, she would take her eyes off the book and reach up to touch his wrinkled cheek. She was alternately stroking her own cheek, then his again. Finally she spoke up, "Grandpa, did God make you?"

"Yes, Sweetheart," he answered, "God made me a long time ago."
"Oh," she paused, "Grandpa, did God make me too?"
"Yes, indeed, honey," he said, "God made you just a little while ago."
Feeling their respective faces again, she observed, "God's getting better at it, isn't he?"
God got better at it. After untold efforts to win our allegiance and our hearts, God took on human form, walking among us and living with us so that we would understand. It is in the living, breathing person of Jesus that we really see all things we call holy, such as forgiveness, sharing, joy, vision, courage, perseverance, and especially love. We might think we understand love, for example, but when we receive totally unconditional love from another person, love takes on a completely new meaning for us. Jesus shows us the ultimate example of love, namely, God's love. Seeing this example in the flesh makes all the difference in the world for us.

Lane Boyd, What's So Important about Jesus?
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10: Three times: 

Too many people come to Church three times primarily. They're Baptized, they get married, and they have their funeral service at the Church. The first time they throw water on you, the second time rice, the third time dirt!

11: "Have you found Jesus?"  

A drunk stumbles across a baptismal service on Sunday afternoon down by the river. He proceeds to walk down into the water and stand next to the Preacher. The minister turns and notices the old drunk and says, "Mister, Are you ready to find Jesus?" The drunk looks back and says, "Yes, Preacher. I sure am." The minister then dunks the fellow under the water and pulls him right back up. "Have you found Jesus?" the preacher asked. "No, I didn't!" said the drunk. The preacher then dunks him under for quite a bit longer, brings him up and says, "Now, brother, have you found Jesus?” “No, I did not, Reverend." The preacher in disgust holds the man under for at least 30 seconds t his time brings him out of the water and says in a harsh tone, "My God, have you found Jesus yet?” The old drunk wipes his eyes and says to the preacher... "Are you sure this is where he fell in?"
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11. Solidarity with his people:

The movie Gandhi is a three-hour epic depicting the life of Mahatma Gandhi: the Father of the Nation in India - a man of faith and a writer, a politician and a pacifist. To lead the oppressed people of India to freedom from British rule, Gandhi adopted a pacifist, non-violent approach. By means of hunger strikes (fasting from food), long vigils of prayer, peaceful marches, non-violent protests and civil disobedience, Gandhi persuaded the British to grant independence to India in 1947, although the British empire separated Pakistan from India. Even though a civil war between the Muslims and Hindus in the states bordering Pakistan followed, and Gandhi himself was assassinated in 1948, Gandhi and his philosophy of non-violent and peaceful resistance inspired many leaders all around the world.  One of the reasons why Gandhi put on a loincloth and fasted from food almost to the point of death was to show solidarity with millions of his people who were poor and hungry and to identify with them in their suffering. Today’s gospel tells us that it  was to show solidarity with sinners that sinless Jesus received the baptism of repentance in the River Jordan from John the Baptist (Albert Cylwicki in ‘His Word Resounds’).
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 12:  “You are My beloved Son; With You I am well pleased:”

On Jan 19, 383, the Christian Roman Emperor Theodosius named his son Arcadius as co-emperor. It was during a period in church history when the Arian Heresy was spreading throughout the Roman Empire. The Arian Heresy held that Jesus Christ was not fully God. Theodosius called for a truce between Christians and Arians and called for a conciliatory conference. One Christian bishop who was not willing to compromise his faith in Christ's deity was Amphilochus of Iconium. So he had to suffer persecution from the Arians. On Arcadius’ coronation day, bishop entered the reception hall, bowed to the emperor, ignored his son and made a poignant speech and turned to leave. "What!" said Theodosius, "Do you take no notice of my son the co-emperor? Is this all the respect you pay to a prince that I have made equal dignity with myself?" At this the bishop gave Arcadius a blessing and replied, "Sir, do you so highly resent my apparent neglect of your son because I do not give him equal honor with yourself? What must the eternal God think of you, who have allowed His coequal and coeternal Son to be degraded in His proper divinity in every part of your empire?  Remember God the Father’s proclamation on the day Jesus was baptized by John in the River Jordan.”
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13. Baptism of a cat:

Johnny's Mother looked out the window and noticed him "playing church" with their cat. He had the cat sitting quietly and he was preaching to it. She smiled and went about her work. A while later she heard loud meowing and hissing and ran back to the open window to see Johnny baptizing the cat in a tub of water. She called out, "Johnny, stop that! The cat is afraid of water!" Johnny looked up at her and said, "He should have thought about that before he joined my church."
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14. Three times:

Too many people come to Church three times primarily. They're baptized, they get married, and they have their funeral service at the Church. The first time they throw water on you, the second time rice, the third time dirt!
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15. Baptized in luxury:

When our church was renovated, adding a baptismal pool, we were pleased. So was our daughter. While riding in the car with my daughter and her friend, we went past a pond. My daughter's friend proudly declared, "I was baptized in that pond." My daughter responded with no less pride: "Oh, I was baptized in a Jacuzzi at our church." (Pastor Davis)
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16.  “Born-again.”

When Jimmy Carter was elected President of the United States, he described himself as a “born-again” Christian. For many Americans this was an unfamiliar term. By the time of the next election primaries, nearly all the candidates were claiming to be “born-again.” Political satirist Mark Russell suggested, “This could give Christianity a bad name.”  
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17. A little girl

who normally attended another Sunday School happened to attend a Methodist Sunday School one week-end, while visiting her grandmother. In the course of the morning she heard a number of things she wasn't quite sure about, but when the teacher said that Jesus was a Jew she responded, "Maybe Jesus was a Jew, but God is a Baptist!"
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MORE REFLECTIONS: 

Exegesis

Origin of baptism: neither John nor Jesus invented baptism. It had been practiced for centuries among the Jews as a ritual equivalent to our Confession. Until the fall of the Temple in 72 A.D., it was common for Jewish people to use a special pool called a MIKVEH -- literally a "collection of water" – as a means of spiritual cleansing, to remove spiritual impurity and sin. Men took this bath weekly on the eve of the Sabbath; women, monthly. Converts were also expected to take this bath before entering Judaism. The orthodox Jews still retain the rite. John preached that such a bath was a necessary preparation for the cataclysm that would be wrought by the coming Messiah. Jesus transformed this continuing ritual into the one single, definitive act by which we begin our life of faith. In effect he fused his divine essence with the water and the ceremony.

A couple of questions: 1) why did Jesus, the sinless Son of God, receive the 'baptism of repentance' meant for sinners? 2) Why did Jesus wait for thirty years to begin his public ministry? The strange answer for the first question given by the apocryphal book, "The Gospel According to the Hebrews," is that Jesus received the baptism of John to please his mother and relatives. In this humble submission we see a foreshadowing of the “baptism” of his bloody death upon the cross. Jesus’ baptism by John was the acceptance and the beginning of his mission as God’s suffering Servant. He allowed himself to be numbered among sinners. Jesus submitted himself entirely to his Father’s will. Out of love he consented to His baptism of death for the remission of our sins. Many Fathers of the Church explain that Jesus received baptism to identify himself with his people, who for the first time in Jewish history became aware of their sins and of the need of repentance, as a result of John's preaching. The Jews had the traditional belief that only the Gentiles who embraced Jewish religion needed the baptism of repentance, for, as God's chosen people, the Jewish race was holy. Jesus might have been waiting for this most opportune moment to begin his public ministry. The Fathers point out that the voice from the heavenly Father is an adaptation of Psalm 2:17, "This is my beloved Son," and of Isaiah 42:1 referring to the "suffering servant": "with whom I am well pleased".  

The turning point: The baptism from John was a very important event in the life of Jesus. First, it was a moment of decision. It marked the end of Jesus' private life, which prepared him for his public ministry. Second, it was a moment of identification with his people in their God-ward movement initiated by John the Baptist (quality of a good leader). Third, it was a moment of approval. Jesus might have been waiting for a signal of approval from his heavenly Father and during his baptism Jesus got this approval of himself as the Father's "beloved Son". Fourth, it was a moment of conviction. At baptism Jesus received certainties (assurances) from heaven about his identity and the nature of his mission: a) He was the "Chosen One" and the "beloved Son of God"; b) his mission of saving mankind would be fulfilled not by conquering the Romans, but by becoming the "suffering servant" of God i.e., by the cross. Fifth, it was a moment of equipment. By descending on Jesus in the form of a dove (symbol of gentleness), the Holy Spirit equipped Jesus with the power of preaching the "Good News" (that God is a loving Father, who wants to save mankind from its sins through His Son Jesus) in contrast to the "axe" and "fire" preaching of John the Baptist about an angry God's judgment on sinners.

Messages

1. The baptism of Jesus reminds us of our identity and mission. First, it reminds us of who we are and whose we are. By baptism we become sons and daughters of God, brothers and sisters of Jesus, members of his Church, heirs of heaven and temples of the Holy Spirit. Hence "baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit and the door which gives access to the other Sacraments" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1213). Most of us dipped the fingers of our right hands into the holy water font and blessed ourselves when we came into church today. Why? This blessing is supposed to remind us of our baptism. And so when I bless myself with holy water, I should be thinking of the fact that I am a child of God; that I have been redeemed by the Cross of Christ; that I have been made a member of God’s family and that I have been washed, forgiven, cleansed and purified by the blood of the Lamb.

Second, Jesus’ baptism reminds us of our mission: a) to experience the presence of God within us, to acknowledge our own dignity as God’s children, and to appreciate the divine presence in others by honoring them, loving them and serving them in all humility; b) to live as the children of God in thought, word and action so that our Heavenly Father may say to each one of us as He said to Jesus: "You are my beloved son/daughter in whom I am well pleased"; c) to lead a holy and transparent Christian life and not to desecrate our bodies (the temples of the Holy Spirit and members of Jesus' body) by impurity, injustice, intolerance, jealousy or hatred; d) to accept both the good and the bad experiences of life as the gifts of a loving Heavenly Father, for our growth in holiness; e) to grow daily in intimacy with God by personal and family prayers, by reading the Word of God, by participating in the Holy Mass, and by frequenting the sacrament of reconciliation; f) to be co-creators with God in building up the “kingdom of God” on earth, a kingdom of compassion, justice and love and to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.


2. This is the day for us to remember the graces we received in baptism and to renew our baptismal vows: On the day of our baptism, as Pope John Paul II explains, "We were anointed with the oil of catechumens, the sign of Christ's gentle strength, to fight against evil. Blessed water was poured over us, an effective sign of interior purification through the gift of the Holy Spirit. We were then anointed with chrism to show that we were thus consecrated in the image of Jesus, the Father's Anointed One. The candle lighted from the paschal candle was a symbol of the light of faith which our parents and godparents must have continually safeguarded and nourished with the life-giving grace of the Spirit." This is also a day for us to renew our baptismal vows by consecrating ourselves to the Holy Trinity and "by rejecting Satan and all his empty promises," which our profane world is constantly offering us through its mass media of communication. Let us ask Our Lord today to make us faithful to our Baptismal promises. Let us thank Him for the privilege of being joined to His mission of preaching the ‘Good News’ by our transparent Christian lives of love, mercy, service and forgiveness.