Baptism of the Lord

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)
 jesus led by the spirit
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. 
johntheb bearing-witness
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.
baptism 0f j
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.
reaching
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
Jesus baptism
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.
living Gods word
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. 
oppressed
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.
Baptism in the name
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.
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From the Connections:

THE WORD:
Today’s Gospel is the final event of the Epiphany: Jesus’ baptism at the Jordan River by John.  The Christmas season officially comes to an end today at the banks of the Jordan.  Jesus is no longer the child in a Bethlehem manger but the adult Redeemer making his way to Jerusalem.  The good news spoken by the angels continues to unfold; the most wondrous part of the Christ story is yet to be revealed.  Today, the same Spirit that “anoints” the Messiah for his mission us to be about the work of Christmas in this new year: to seek out and find the lost, to heal the hurting, to feed the hungry, to free the imprisoned, to rebuild nations, to bring peace to all peoples everywhere.
Luke presents Jesus as the last person to be baptized by John, bringing John’s ministry to completion. 
Luke describes the scene with many images from the First Testament:
the sky opens (“Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down” – Isaiah 63: 19);
the Spirit “descended upon him like a dove” (many rabbis likened the wind above the waters at the dawn of Genesis to a dove hovering above its newborn; in employing this image, Luke suggests that, in this Jesus, a new Genesis is about to take place);
the “voice from heaven” identifies and confirms Jesus (“Here is my servant . . . my chosen one with whom I am pleased” – Isaiah 42: 1, today's first reading; “The Lord said to me, ‘You are my Son; this day I have begotten you’” – Psalm 2: 7).
Jesus’ baptism at the Jordan becomes the moment of God's “anointing” of his Messiah (the word Messiah means “anointed”) for the work he is about to do.
 HOMILY POINTS:
Baptism is more than just a “naming” ceremony but an ongoing process of becoming the people of faith that God calls us to be.
In baptism, we claim the name of “Christian” and embrace all that that holy name means: to live for others rather than for ourselves, in imitation of Christ. 
Our baptisms made each one of us the “servant” of today's readings: to bring forth in our world the justice, reconciliation and enlightenment of Christ, the “beloved Son” and “favor” of God.
In baptism, the same Spirit of compassion, justice and peace that “descends” upon Jesus at his baptism by John descends and rests upon us, compelling us to take on the work of the Gospel.
The beloved of God
No matter how hard she tries, there is no pleasing her mother.  Every effort to help make life easier for her mother, every attempt to bring joy to her mother’s life, is met with criticism or cynicism.  Since she was a little girl, she has longed to hear her mother say to her, “I’m proud of you.  I love you.”
He loves everything about her: her smile, her wit, her intelligence.  But he is out of her league.  She has always been kind and friendly to him, but he cannot work up the nerve to ask her out.  He’s waiting for the right moment, but the moments have been there — he’s just been too afraid to realize them.  He will never hear her say, “You’re a good guy.  I love you.”
Mom and Dad struggle to stay afloat in the storm surge of the hurricane that is their teenager.  But they constantly keep watch, always there to pick up the pieces, always ready to come to the rescue, always prepared to make everything OK.  They love their child with all their being and always will —but nothing would make them happier than to hear their teenage son or daughter say, “Thank you, Mom and Dad.  I love you.”

We have all longed to hear someone say to us, “Thank you.  You did well.  You have made me happy.  I love you.”  Today, Jesus hears those words from his Father in heaven — and, in the waters of our own baptisms, God speaks those same words to us.  We are the beloved of God; God claims us as his own.  And unless and until we hear the voice from heaven claiming that we are cherished by a God who is “well-pleased” with us, we will never be able to truly cherish anyone or believe that we are their beloved as well.  The voice of the Father — our Father —speaks to all of us in the sacrament of Baptism; the Spirit of God descends upon us, enabling us to give to others the love God joyfully gives to us.  
[Adapted from The Pastor as Minor Poet by M. Craig Barnes.]

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ILLUSTRATIONS: 

From  Fr. Jude Botelho:

The people of Israel had shown signs of repentance for their sins, and received from God a promise of consolation: the glory of the Lord will be revealed. The passage from the first of the Servant songs refers to a servant figure who could point to the forthcoming messiah. In the liturgy today, this servant is identified with Jesus, who is manifested as such in his baptism. The latter part of the servant songs speaks of the task of the servant: to establish peace on earth, to be a covenant to Israel, a revelation to the gentiles, and to proclaim the liberation of captives. The description of the servant aptly fit Jesus and his future ministry.Moment of decisionA moment of decision can be thrust upon a person like a bolt out of the blue. This happened to the Dubliner, Matt Talbot. He was drinking himself to death. One day he was standing outside a pub, begging the price of a drink from people he considered his friends. But they passed him by. Suddenly the scales fell from his eyes. He saw that he was destroying himself, and he made a decision to give up drinks, and to try, with the help of God, to become a saint. Or this moment may come upon a person gradually, as happened to Mother Teresa. She was working for well-off girls in a Loreto convent school in Calcutta. But meanwhile she was becoming more and more uneasy about the fact that poor people were lying uncared for on the streets just outside the convent walls. One day she left her convent and went to work among the poor. Her name became a byword for devotion to the abandoned.
Anonymous

Today’s gospel tells the story of the crossing of one threshold to another. Many moved by John’s fierce preaching at the Jordan mistakenly believe that he is the Messiah. John tells them that he is only preparing the way. He performs an ancient ritual symbolizing conversion and repentance. The Baptist refers to the one who is to come, ‘who will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire!’ If the one who is to come will baptize with the Holy Spirit, then he must be possessed by the Holy Spirit. At Jesus’ baptism two events take place. One is seen the other is heard. The descent of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus is described as the descent of a dove. Then the voice from heaven announces: “You are my son, the Beloved”. After his baptism in the Jordan, Jesus in prayer, receives the anointing of the Holy Spirit to consecrate him to announce to the poor the good news of their salvation. The arrival of Jesus is not the end of the story. One part of God’s history has come to a close, but another is about to begin. The wonder of God’s coming among us has been celebrated over the Christmas period. Now we are called to live lives that reflect our belief that he is truly among us. As we begin our year we are challenged to recall our own baptism, we too are the well-beloved sons and daughters of the Father, filled with the Holy Spirit, and commissioned to bring God’s favour and fire into our world. Are we ready to live this year proud to be Jesus’ people?

Identifying with sinners
Mahatma Gandhi was not a Christian, yet he was one of the most Christ-like men of this century. Gandhi was a staunch opponent of India’s iniquitous caste system. He referred to it as ‘a blot on the soul of India.’ He especially abhorred the treatment meted out to the untouchables – those who belong to the lower caste. They were barred from entering the temples. In towns and cities they were confined to the slums and allowed to perform only the most menial jobs. In the country they were forbidden the use of the wells. On his journeys through India, Gandhi was warmly welcomed by the people. When he entered a village the head of the village would invite him to stay in his house for the night, where he would be assured of a bath, good food, and a decent night’s rest. But Gandhi politely refused the offer. He asked, ‘Where are your untouchables? I will stay with them.’ And he did, even though his action shocked many.
Flor Mc Carthy in ‘New Sunday & Holy Day Liturgies’

Jesus, Lamb of God
Some time ago, on a Christian mission in Southern Sudan, a group of children came for instruction for baptism. The instructions began on Ash Wednesday and ended with baptism on Holy Saturday. On Ash Wednesday, the Maryknoll missioner gave them a newborn lamb to be in their care. The lamb stumbled awkwardly at first, but soon playfully charged at the children, who fed it milk from a bottle. All through Lent, the lamb grew to be more gentle, accepting, innocent, and trusting. The lamb, always with the children, was never troublesome or demanding. When the children sat in a circle, the lamb played within it. A strong bond grew between the lamb and the children. Toward the end of Lent, the catechists explained how they would have their Holy Thursday Eucharist, which would be followed by a special community meal; and they announced that their little lamb would be the paschal lamb. On Holy Thursday morning, there were special prayers by which the lamb took on their sinfulness. Then a catechist slaughtered the little lamb. They watched as even in its last moments the lamb seemed to trust them. The meal was well prepared, and the children ate the meat because meat came so seldom to their table. But there was a mood of quiet sadness; and there was tremendous awareness of Jesus the Lamb of God.
Harold Buetow in ‘God Still Speaks: Listen’

Power Source
The Greatest is a film about Muhammad Ali’s career as heavyweight boxing champion. It shows not only how he was gifted naturally with agility and strength, but also how he trained extensively with rigorous workouts and diets. But Muhammad Ali said one time that although all these things helped, the real secret of his power source was a set of inspirational tapes to which he listened. The tapes were recorded speeches of a Black Muslim leader, the honorable Elijah Muhammad. They deal with self-knowledge, freedom and potential. Muhammad Ali would listen to these tapes when he got up in the morning, when he ate his meals during the day and when he retired at night. He claimed that these inspirational messages gave him the power to fight for his black people, not only for their glory in the ring, but also for their civil rights in the arena of life. In today’s gospel, we have revealed the secret of the power of another man, Jesus Christ. The baptism scene drawn for us is another epiphany episode following last week’s one with the Magi. Three signs accompany our Lord’s baptismal experience to reveal who he is. First, the heavens were opened to symbolize a new divine intervention in human history. Second, the Spirit descended on him like a dove signifying the presence and power of God. Third, a voice was heard designating him as God’s beloved and favored Son.
Albert Cylwicki in ‘His Word Resounds’

What’s purpose in life?
An executive hirer, a “Head-hunter” who goes out and hires corporation executives for other firms, once told me, “When I get an executive that I’m trying to hire for someone else, I like to disarm him. I offer him a drink, take my coat off, then my vest, undo my tie, throw up my feet and talk about baseball, football, family, whatever, until he’s all relaxed. Then, when I think I’ve got him relaxed, I lean over, look him square in the eye and say, ‘What’s your purpose in life?’ It’s amazing how top executives fall apart at that question. “Well, I was interviewing this fellow the other day, had him all disarmed, with my feet up on his desk, talking about football. Then I leaned up and said, ‘What’s your purpose in life, Bob?’ And he said, without blinking an eye, ‘To go to heaven and take as many people with me as I can.’ For the first time in my career I was speechless!”
Josh McDowell from ‘Building your self-image’

Baptism –Commitment
A pig and a chicken were out for a walk one day. The pig wasn’t too bright and tended to repeat everything that others said or suggested. The chicken remarked ‘Those are very nice people down in that house down there.’ ‘They are indeed,’ replied the pig, ‘they are very nice people.’ ‘They are very good to us,’ continued the chicken. ‘They are indeed’ replied the pig, ‘they are very good to us.’ ‘Do you know what I was thinking’ asked the chicken. ‘No’, said the pig. ‘What were you thinking?’ ‘I was thinking’ that we should do something for them’ That’s a very good idea’ replied the pig. ‘I think we should do something for them. What did you have in mind? ‘I was thinking that we should give them something’ said the chicken. ‘A brilliant idea’ said the pig. I think we should give them something. What did you have in mind? ‘I was thinking’ said the chicken, ‘that we should give them bacon and eggs. The pig quickly stopped in his tracks, and said ‘Definitely not! For you it’s only a slight inconvenience, but for me it’s total commitment!’- Baptism is intended to lead us to a total commitment and our acts of Christian charity should be seen as anything but slight inconveniences.
Jack McArdle in ‘And that’s the Gospel truth’

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From Fr. Tony Kadavil:

1. Gandhi:
The film Gandhi is a three-hour epic, depicting the life of Mahatma Gandhi in India. In order to lead the oppressed people of India to freedom from British rule, Gandhi adopted non-violent means such as fasting from food, vigils of prayer, peaceful marches, protests and civil disobedience. 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 the Indian people, identifying with them in their physical sufferings. This finally brought independence to India. (Vima Dasan). Marin Luther King, too, identified with his enslaved and maltreated people and became the voice of the voiceless in the name of God. Consequently, he was maligned, beaten, jailed, and assassinated while he preached peace, justice and non-violence on behalf of the downtrodden Afro-Americans in the U. S.  His heroic example definitely passes as Christian living with tens of millions of the poor and alienated Afro- Americans in the U.S. and the oppressed millions worldwide. To better appreciate his struggles against the sins of our culture, particularly of our "Christian" clergy you are invited to read Dr. King's "Letter from a Birmingham Jail” readily available on the internet (http://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham.html). Jesus’ baptism, as described in today’s Gospel, was his identification with God’s chosen people who became aware of their sinful lives and need for God’s forgiveness. (Rev. Coman Dalton).

2.  Thomas Merton:
A young man once described his experience of sinking into insanity. He was a very bright university student, but he had abandoned his studies in favor of nightclubs and pornography. One night he retired to a hotel room. As he lay in bed, the window appeared to expand until it reached the floor. He heard a mocking voice in his mind saying, "What if you threw yourself out of that window?" The young man wrote: "Now my life was dominated by something I had never known before: fear. It was humiliating, this strange self-conscious watchfulness. It was a humiliation I had deserved more than I knew. I had refused to pay attention to the moral laws upon which all vitality and sanity depend." Well, this young man did begin to pay attention to the moral law. He began to put his life in order - and to experience inner peace. He eventually entered the Catholic Church and went on to become one of the most famous monks of the twentieth century. His name is Thomas Merton.  Today’s Gospel on Jesus’baptism should challenge us, too, to examine whether we are keeping our Baptismal promises. (Fr.Phil Bloom)
 
3. 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.

4: 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. 

5: 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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 From the Sermons.com
 
6: 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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7: 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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8: 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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9: 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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10: 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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11: 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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12: 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!

13: "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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14. 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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 15:  “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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16. 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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17. 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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18. 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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19.  “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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20. 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.
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More From Sermons.com:
 
n the season of Epiphany we look at those special events in Jesus' life where his presence was especially manifested with power. Jesus' baptism is one of those epiphanies. You heard Luke's version read this morning. The Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form as a dove, and a voice came from heaven, "Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased." In newer translations, which are thought to be more accurate, the adjective "beloved" is made a separate phrase to emphasize the intensity of the personal nature of this experience. "You are my Son. My beloved. In thee I am well pleased."  

That is Luke's version. All four gospels portray this scene. But Luke's version is a little different than the others. In each version, though, the Spirit descends "like a dove." The Holy Spirit is not a bird. Luke and the other apostles use the dove as a metaphor for the Spirit's coming into our lives. It is a beautiful metaphor. Have you ever seen a dove descend and land? It is graceful, gentle, and quiet. That's the point being made. That is the way the Holy Spirit will enter into our lives. The Holy Spirit came to Jesus gently, quietly, and in Luke's version, privately.  

That is why Luke is different than the other three gospels. The other writers imply that the Spirit descended upon Jesus at his baptism, apparently when he was still in the water. That is the way this scene is often portrayed in religious art, especially those beautiful paintings out of the Middle Ages. Jesus, standing waist deep in water. John the Baptist standing next to him, pointing at Jesus, as if to say, "This is the one!" or, in the words of the Gospel of John, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!" Above Jesus' head in these scenes is the Spirit, as a dove, descending. It is like the symbol that is in the baptismal font here, a nimbus around the Holy Spirit as he hovers above Jesus' head. 

That's the way all the other gospels picture it. But Luke is different...
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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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 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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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, Collected Sermons, www.Sermons.com, quoting O Brother, Where Art Thou, by Joel and Ethan Coen
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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, God's Gift, CSS Publishing Company.
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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, Come on in, the Water's Fine!
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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, Praying for a Whole New World, CSS Publishing Company.
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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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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, www.Sermons.com. Adapted.
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Spiritual Perception 

Back when the telegraph was the fastest means of long-distance communication, there was a story, perhaps apocryphal, about a young man who applied for a job as a Morse code operator. Answering an ad in the newspaper, he went to the address that was listed. When he arrived, he entered a large, noisy office. In the background a telegraph clacked away. A sign on the receptionist's counter instructed job applicants to fill out a form and wait until they were summoned to enter the inner office. 

The young man completed his form and sat down with seven other waiting applicants. After a few minutes, the young man stood up, crossed the room to the door of the inner office, and walked right in. Naturally the other applicants perked up, wondering what was going on. Why had this man been so bold? They muttered among themselves that they hadn't heard any summons yet. They took more than a little satisfaction in assuming the young man who went into the office would be reprimanded for his presumption and summarily disqualified for the job. 

Within a few minutes the young man emerged from the inner office escorted by the interviewer, who announced to the other applicants, "Gentlemen, thank you very much for coming, but the job has been filled by this young man." 

The other applicants began grumbling to each other, and then one spoke up, "Wait a minute--I don't understand. He was the last one to come in, and we never even got a chance to be interviewed. Yet he got the job. That's not fair."
****
From Fr. Jude Botelho: Year A

The first reading is part of the first Servant Song in the second part of the Book of Isaiah. These poems portray an ideal figure, suffering, dedicated to God, holy and a means of salvation from sin. This servant some have interpreted as Israel and others as an individual person, the servant being Jesus Christ. To establish righteousness God presents his servant whom Christian tradition has identified with Jesus. Misunderstood and beaten, the servant of God will not waver from his task and mission, which is to bring justice to the nations through his suffering. It will be his responsibility to open the eyes of the blind, to bring out the prisoners from prison and bring salvation to all. He will be the source of salvation to all.

Called to Service
Nelson Mandela will go down as one of the greatest leaders of this century. He was instrumental in ending apartheid and bringing about a multiracial society in South Africa. Mandela belongs to the Xhosa people, and grew up in the Transkei. But how did he come to play such a crucial role in the history of his country? In his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, he tells us that all the currents of his life were taking him away from the Transkei. Yet he had no epiphany, no singular revelation, no moment of truth. He says: “A steady accumulation of insights helped me to see that my duty was to the people as a whole, not to a particular section of it. The memory of a thousand indignities produced in me an anger, a rebelliousness, a desire to fight the system that imprisoned my people. There was no particular day on which I said, Henceforth I will devote myself to the liberation of my people; instead I simply found myself doing so, and could not do otherwise.”
Flor McCarthy in ‘Sunday and Holy day Liturgies’
The second reading from the Acts of the Apostles, is part of Peter’s address to his Gentile converts. It talks of Peter’s realization that Christianity was a religion not only for the Jews but for all man. “God has no favorites, but everyone is a favourite of God.” Peter stresses the universality of salvation offered to all peoples. God wishes to save all men even though his plan of salvation gave Israel preference or priority, ‘Jesus Christ is Lord of all men.’ What follows is the summary of the Good News: Jesus Christ is the Word of God, made flesh, filled with the Spirit bring reconciliation and peace. He went about doing good through his words and deeds.

Trinket of Treasure
Ann Thomas tells this story of herself. She was a t a garage sale with her friend Betty. Ann had just sorted through a tray of trinkets. Betty came up and asked, “Any luck?” “No!” said Ann. “It’s just a pile of junk. She stepped aside to let Betty see for herself. Betty took one look at the pile, picked up a tarnished old cross and said, “I can’t believe it. I’ve found a treasure! This cross is made of antique silver.” When Ann’s friend got home, she cleaned the cross and polished it. It was indeed a treasure. Ann ended the story saying, Betty and I both looked at the same cross. I only saw junk; Betty saw a treasure.” Later Betty’s seven-year-old son, Bobby picked up the cross, held it reverently in his hands, and looked at it for a long time. Suddenly he began to cry. “What’s wrong?” asked Betty. Bobby said, “I can’t help it. I was looking at Jesus on the cross.” Three people looked at the same cross. One saw junk, another saw a treasure; a third saw Jesus.
- Mark Link in ‘Sunday Homilies’
The Gospel according to Matthew highlights briefly the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan, where Jesus was affirmed as the Son God by the Father, and the Spirit of God descends on him in the form of a dove. The gospel account though brief is full of drama and symbolism. This highlights the fact that Jesus at his baptism was commissioned to carry out his mission of bringing justice to all. As Isaiah had foretold, “He brings justice; he will never waver nor be crushed until justice is established on earth.” What is this justice? Justice in the biblical sense is meeting need wherever it exists and particularly where it exists most helplessly. Likewise when we are christened at our baptism, we too are made like Christ, and this ‘christ-ing’ gives us our Christian vocation, setting us aside to bring justice to the nations. Though Jesus’ mission was for all, he was commissioned to bring justice particularly to sinners, to the poor and the little ones of society. This is the reason he allowed himself to be baptized. The Baptism of John the Baptist was a baptism of repentance. It was a sign that the people repented of their sins. But Jesus was always the sinless one of God, God’s beloved Son. In spite of it, if he still chose to be baptized, it was to show his solidarity with us sinners needing forgiveness; it was to identify himself with the poor, the distressed and oppressed needing justice.

Identified with victims
When leprosy broke out among the people of the Hawaiian Islands in the middle of the last century, the authorities responded by establishing a leper colony on the remote island of Molokai. The victims were snatched by force from their families and sent to this island to perish However, moved by their terrible plight, a young Belgian priest Damien De Veuster, asked to be allowed to minister to them. Straightaway he realized that there was only one effective way to do this that was to go and live among them. Having got permission, he went to Molokai. At first, he tried to minister to them while maintaining a certain distance. But he soon realized that he had to live among them in order to gain their trust. As a result he contracted leprosy himself. The reaction of the lepers was immediate and wholehearted. They embraced him and took him to their hearts. He was now one of them. There was no need, no point any more in keeping his distance. The lepers had someone who could talk with authority about leprosy, about brokenness, about rejection and public shame.
- Flor McCarthy in ‘Sunday and Holy day Liturgies’
“The film Gandhi is a three hour epic, depicting the life of Mahatma Gandhi.. In order to lead the oppressed people of India to freedom from British rule, Gandhi adopted means such as fasting from food, vigils of prayer, marches, protests and civil disobedience. One of the reasons why Gandhi put on a loin cloth and fasted from food, almost to the point of death, was to show solidarity with the Indian people, identifying with them in their physical sufferings, which finally brought independence to India. ”
–Vima Dasan
The last part of today’s gospel reminds us that the Baptism of Jesus was an act of affirmation done in public in the river Jordan during which Jesus was publicly proclaimed by the Father: “This is my son the Beloved; my favour rests on him.” We also need to be affirmed as the well-beloved sons and daughters of the Father, by the Church, by the community and by individual brothers and sisters. We ourselves have to live and proclaim publicly our baptism: that we are truly sons and daughters of our heavenly father.
The lights won't come on if the power is off. Jesus was able to live as he did because he was full of the spiritual power of God. He was able to shine a light in the darkness because the power was on. And the only real source of spiritual power in this universe is the Spirit of God
-Stevenson
Baptism is not a bath, but a funeral bier. If it was a bath, you would need it again and again. But since it is a death and new life, it is a once for all picture of the transformation that has taken place in our lives. Baptism is not about your goodness; it's about God's Grace.
-Dr. Mickey Anders
In the early rites of baptism, the church made this clear. The newly baptized Christian was given a new white robe, symbolic of the new life that was now being lived. Hands were laid on the head, sign of the gift of the Holy Spirit, the empowerment to be in ministry with Christ in the world. Later, a Bible was given, sign that this new Christian is to be in the world preaching and teaching.
-Willimon

Moment of Affirmation
When the American writer, Maya Angelou, was growing up she didn’t see her mother very much. She was brought up in great part by her grandmother, a wonderful and saintly woman. She tells how when she was twenty years old, she took a trip to San Francisco to visit her mother. It was a particularly important yet vulnerable moment in Maya’s life, she was struggling to make her way in life and groping her way towards becoming a writer. She had quite a good meeting with her mother. When it was time to leave, her mother walked her down the hill to the waiting bus. As they parted, her mother said, ‘You know, I think you are the greatest woman I have ever met.’ Years later Maya could still recall that moment vividly. She said, ‘Waiting for the bus, I sat there thinking. Just suppose she’s right. Suppose I really am somebody. It was one of those moments when the sky rolled back. At times like that, it’s almost as if the whole earth holds its breath’ Maya went on to become a highly successful and respected writer and poet. She composed and delivered an inspiring poem at the inauguration of President Clinton.
- Mark Link in ‘Sunday Homilies’

God’s press Conference…
When likable Lou Holtz was announced as the new head football coach at the University of Notre Dame, he was touted as one who would restore the school’s football program to its tradition of excellence. Whenever a new leader appears on the scene, whether it is a new coach of a team or a new president of a corporation, a press conference is usually held to proclaim that leader’s qualification and potential. Such press conferences usually create some excitement about the leader’s identity, and arouse our expectations with glowing promises about what this leader will accomplish. Today’s event of our Lord’s baptism is something like this. It’s as if God himself called a press conference to reveal his Son Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah and to give us a preview of what his mission will accomplish.
- Albert Cylwicki in ‘His Word Resounds’