Today’s reflection is for The Baptism of the Lord, Sunday January 10, 2021, and the readings can be found by clicking here. Sadly, there was no recording of this homily. Happily, you can still read it below.
In the very first verse of the first book of the Bible, The Book of Genesis, which literally means, “In the Beginning,” we read, “A mighty wind swept over the waters…” God’s Spirit swept over the waters of the abyss, brought order out of chaos, and light and beauty out of darkness. God started something new. He created by his Word and saw that it was good.
Today we celebrate the baptism of the Lord, where God again sends down His Spirit, only this time upon His son, the Word made flesh, and upon the waters of baptism by John, in the Jordan. Today we hear, “You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.” God was creating something new again, and the Father, the Son, and the Spirit are there to give witness that it is very good. And what happened at Jesus’ baptism happens at every baptism.
You know, I don’t think most Catholics have any idea how powerful baptism is. In the Catechism we read, “ Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life…Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God.” (1213) When we are baptised, and when we bring our children to the Church to be baptised, the Holy Spirit–the same Spirit that created the earth and all that is in it, and the same Spirit that descended upon our Lord, and same Spirit that descended upon the Apostles at Pentecost–descends upon us and our children to save our eternal soul.
It doesn’t just add to what is, it transforms every part of our being for the rest of our lives. Again, the Catechism, “Baptism not only purifies from all sins, but also makes [us] “a new creature,” an adopted son of God, who has become a “partaker of the divine nature,”69 member of Christ and co-heir with him,70 and a temple of the Holy Spirit.” (1265) This is such an amazing gift! In the early church, people wanted to keep returning to the waters of baptism to be re-baptised, or after committing sin, wanted to recommit their lives to the Lord through baptism again. The Church said once is all you need. In the Creed that we are about to profess we say, “We believe in one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.”
How amazing that at every Christian baptism, the heavens tear open and the voice of God booms so that we can hear we are his beloved son or daughter. Who wouldn’t want to hear that time and time again? I even have a protestant friend, who every time he attends a baptism, he enters into the water! He recommits his life to Jesus Christ, his savior. He jumps right into the pool where they are baptising, and he encourages others to do the same. I want us to do the same too.
Not jump into a pool – but recommit our lives to Jesus in the sweet waters of baptism again and again. You know, we do actually recommit ourselves to the Lord in this Church. How can we jump into the pool? How can we dedicate ourselves to Him again? It’s why we love our holy water so much in this Church! The same Spirit that blesses the water at our baptism, blesses water, and makes it holy so that it can bless others.
When we walk into the church, under normal circumstances, there is holy water there. We dip our fingers in the water and we renew again our baptismal promises. We make the sign of the Cross and proclaim that we have been baptised in the name of the father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit. All throughout the Easter season, at house blessings, at various events throughout our lives, and finally at Christian funerals, we are sprinkled with holy water and reaffirm the truth that we have been claimed for Jesus Christ, that we are God’s beloved, and that this is not our home. We love him, and he loves us. And that mutual love should transform us–maybe not overnight, but certainly over time. We must become day-by-day the goodness and love of God in our family and in our communities that Jesus was in his time. We are fresh water in the midst of the sea.
St. Ephraem the Syrian said, “A man at sea stores up sweet, fresh water in his boat; in the midst of the sea he lays up and keeps it, the sweet in the midst of the bitter.” He says, “In the same way, amidst the floods of sin, keep the water of baptism.” We are that sweet water in the midst of the salty sea, a sinful world. As we celebrate Jesus’ baptism and ours, we are mindful of what baptism means for us and for the world. Our world needs Christians more than ever. Too many Catholics today–my family included–are not bringing their children to the waters to be reborn as children of God. Bring them forward.
Baptism is the seal of eternal life. If we “keep the seal” until the end, remaining faithful to the demands of our Baptism, we will be able to depart this life “marked with the sign of faith,” in expectation of the blessed vision of God. (1274) May we never take our eyes off the prize, the salvation souls. Let us return to the waters with our children and grandchildren. Let the skies be torn open that we might hear the voice of God and watch the Spirit descent to renew the face of the earth–one soul at a time.