Homily on the Baptism of the Lord, 2021


Today’s feast of the baptism of our Lord brings to an end the season of Christmas. And through Christ’s baptism in which the entire Trinity is present as revealed in the Gospel, we too can join the Psalmist ‘with joy to draw water from the wells of salvation’.

Let us travel back to the first Sunday of Advent. On this Sunday, we prayed with these words from the prophet Isaiah, “Oh, that you would tear the heavens open and come down” (Isa 64:1). Today, in the Gospel, Mark narrates the story of Jesus’ baptism using similar words that, ‘he saw the heavens are torn apart’ (v.10). Mark presents Jesus as one who fulfilled the old promises and therefore, those baptized in his baptism, have acquired the Christian dignity and are called to fulfill the mission of Christ to redeem everyone. This invitation is echoed in the first reading to a free meal by the Lord that will lead to a relationship of merciful love. How God does this is incomprehensible to us. John in the second reading awakens us to the knowledge that, we have three witnesses; the Spirit, the water, and the blood. And because of that, we have their empowerment and courage to carry out our Christian mission of loving God, believing in him, and helping others to do so.

Through Baptism we become sons and daughters of God. And how does this happen as we alluded to above? It is through the incomprehensible action of God. Certainly, we can ask ourselves precisely what that action of God is. Washing of regeneration: Baptism is not only a word, it is not only something spiritual but also implies matter. All the realities of the earth are involved; in baptism, water is the element of fertility. Without water, there is no life and thus, in all the great religions water is seen as the symbol of motherhood, of fruitfulness. For the Church Fathers, the water became the symbol of the maternal womb of the Church. Tertullian, a Church writer of the second and third centuries, said something surprising that, “Never is Christ without water” and by these words of Tertullian, we can also say; never is a Christian without baptism.

On the other hand, although an incomprehensible action, we describe it here: To accomplish this action of God in us, symbols from creation as oil to symbolize the redeeming power of Christ, and a burning candle the light of Christ were used. A garment to symbolize our Christian dignity expressed through the life of holiness in Christ was also used. After the baptism with our parents, godparents, and friends, we celebrated joyfully the gift of new life in Christ. So, baptism does not concern the soul only, but the totality of the human person. Christ took flesh and this continues in the sacraments in which matter is taken on and becomes part of the divine action.

Christian Action This Week: Draw joyfully from the wells of salvation. Increase your participation in the sacraments of Christ. Be holy.

Joy and Peace.