Baptism of the Lord: A Reminder of Our Own
Sermon by Emmanuel Suntheni OSB – Baptism Of The Lord
Sermon And Christian Act In The Word
Theme: Baptism of the Lord! A reminder of our own baptism!
Point of Reflection: The Christmas season concludes with the celebration of Jesus’ baptism. This event marks the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, which will culminate in his death and resurrection. The readings of this feast anticipate the significance which Jesus’ work will have, presenting it as a journey from sadness to joy.
First Reading: Isaiah 40:1–5, 9–11
Psalm: Psalm 104:1–4, 24–25, 27–30
Second Reading: Titus 2:11–14, 3:4–7
Gospel: Luke 3:15–16, 21–22
Sermon (Reflection): The Scriptural readings of today’s feast demonstrate how God transforms sadness into joy. God has transformed our sorrowful sins into salvation by sending his only Son of whom we are commemorating his baptism today. In the first reading (Cf. Isaiah 40:1–5, 9–11), we encounter a movement from sadness to joy, Prophet Isaiah comforted his downtrodden people in exile with a reassurance that God did not give up on them. And again in the second reading (Cf. Titus 2:11–14, 3:4–7), the author of Titus reminds his Christians how God rescued them from their shameful past existence and gave them a new life in the hope of eternal salvation.
However, how can Jesus Christ who is God be baptised? First, let us recognise that Jesus Christ was baptised by the Holy Spirit. Baptised by the Holy Spirit, Jesus began his mission as the Savior of the world. This mission will result in the fulfilment of the peoples’ hopes for liberation and salvation. But why did Jesus accept John’s baptism?
Jesus accepted John’s baptism with a twofold significance for him. First, Jesus accepted John’s baptism of repentance, but not because he was a sinner. Repentance literally means “turning one’s mind around”. This might involve turning away from sin, but it does not have to. For Jesus, John’s baptism was a sign of his readiness to begin his mission as God’s Messiah and the Savior.
Jesus “repented” because, up to this point, he lived a quiet life of an unknown and ordinary Jewish man in Nazareth. Accepting John’s baptism, Jesus gave a visible sign of his decision to turn away from a quiet, private life at home, to begin his public ministry as the Saviour of the world.
Second, upon baptism, Jesus was “baptized” by the Holy Spirit who descended upon him as he was to God in prayer. Filled with this Spirit, Jesus would start his work as God’s Messiah and would carry out this ministry faithfully all the way to the cross. Subsequently, after his resurrection and ascension, Jesus would send the same Holy Spirit upon the disciples. At Pentecost, John’s prophecy would see its fulfilment. Jesus truly was the one who came to baptise his followers with the Holy Spirit. For Jesus, baptism of the Holy Spirit was the starting point of his mission as the Savior. Later, the same baptism would be the beginning of the disciples’ mission of offering that salvation to the whole world in Jesus’ name.
Today’s Gospel passage begins with a picture of the people eagerly awaiting God’s intervention to bring them out of their desperate circumstances. Jesus’ baptism by the Holy Spirit marks the beginning of that process, which will ultimately end with God’s salvation extended to all nations. Jesus’ baptism was, therefore, ultimately the celebration of the beginning of God’s consolation of the world.
Christian Act in Word of God “The Joy of being baptised”
As we are in the New Year, some past years’ memories may also lead us to sadness. But the Baptism of the Lord should reawaken us for we remember our own baptisms, in which, we received grace.
Of course, after our Baptism, we have all been hurt, we all hurt others, and we have all made regrettable mistakes. These mistakes tend to happen particularly in youth when we experiment with many things and often take wrong turns which we later regret.
Like the Christians from our second reading, we may look at certain parts of our past life as “despicable”. Again, this may make us sad and doubt our own worth.
The words of Scripture assure us that our past mistakes do not determine our present. They might have an influence on us because our past deeds always have some consequences. But the past does not completely determine who we are now. God extended his offer of salvation to the unworthy people, and no matter how unworthy we might feel, God’s hand remains consistently outstretched towards us.
Isaiah spoke to the people experiencing sadness because of the loss they experienced. That loss brought them to the brink of despair. We frequently experience losses. These losses could be very ordinary and insignificant, such as losing some money, or a phone. But they can also be very distressing and even life-threatening, such as a loss of a job, or a loved one, or health. Inevitably, all losses bring sadness of different intensity.
When it comes to deep sadness, the words of Isaiah, commanded to comfort his people by reminding them that God has never given up on them, become extremely important. No matter what our loss is, that loss is not nonredeemable in one way or another. Our life may be changed by losses, but they will never make us lose what we hold as the most precious, which is God’s presence within us even when we lose all else.
Jesus received the baptism willingly because he knew that his task on earth was to bring the people out of despair and darkness into the light of salvation. He did that successfully.
As his followers, we are called to do exactly the same, thus, to find a way beyond our own sadness so that we can radiate the light of hope and bring the experience of salvation to others. During this Baptism of the Lord celebration, as Christians, let us renew our own commitments of baptism vows.
Action: I will renew my baptism vows and transform my life
Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, your beloved Son Jesus Christ accepted earthly baptism because of his love for humanity to attain salvation. Almighty God, you have shown your consistent care for your people throughout their long history. Thank you for helping us to confront the sadness that afflicts us periodically. We pray never to lose hope, trust and a deep perspective on life, that will allow us to confront sadness and be a ray of joy to others who experience it. We ask this through Jesus Christ as we celebrate His baptism. Amen.