January 12, 2020

Deacon Jim Homily
The meaning of the renewal of our baptismal vows

Today marks the end of the Christmas season – and the Church celebrates with the Baptism of the Lord Jesus in the Jordan river. 

In this short Gospel passage from Matthew there is a lot going on.  John feels unworthy to baptize Jesus and in fact feels that it should be the other way around.  But Jesus convinces John to “allow it for now” and Jesus therefore shows the acceptance of his mission by saying “for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”  Jesus submits himself to his Father’s will, consenting to a path that leads to suffering, death and Resurrection for the forgiveness of humanity’s sins.  Then there is the Father’s response to Jesus’ acceptance – where God clearly identifies Jesus as “my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

“The heavens were opened” at Jesus’ baptism, reversing what happened through Adam’s sin.  Adam’s rejection of God destroyed the intimate relationship with humankind and God.  Now Jesus’ baptism restores God’s relationship with humankind intended at the beginning of creation.

By accepting Baptism, we embrace what Jesus accomplished for us.  Through the waters of Baptism, we become a new creation, our sins are forgiven, and we enter an intimate relationship as a beloved child of God; Father, Son and Spirit, together with all who, like us, have become a new creation through the waters of Baptism.

Jesus began his ministry of servant leadership as he rose from the waters of the Jordan and was affirmed by “the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming upon him.”  We are all called to mission, by virtue of our Baptism, by our actions and attitudes to “consecrate the world itself to God”.  At Home with the Word

The Lord is calling us to end Christmas by going back to Baptism, the beginning of our Christian life.  Today is an ideal time to renew our baptismal promises by rejecting Satan, all his works, and all his promises and by believing ever more deeply in the Triune God.  When we end Christmas in Trinitarian, baptismal faith, we know in a life-changing way we are beloved sons and daughters of God our Father, with whom He is well pleased.  This affirmation of perfect, infinite, unconditional, eternal fatherly love fills us "with the Holy Spirit and power".

Loved by the Father and filled with the Spirit, we imitate Jesus and go "about doing good works and healing all who were in the grip of the devil”.  In this way, we establish "the victory of justice" on the earth "to open the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness".  This year, the culture of death may well give way to a civilization of love and life.  The renewal of our baptismal promises today has a lot to say about the future of the world.  On this last day of Christmas, let us renew our Baptism.  Laudate 1/12

So where are the “nations” that Isaiah prophesied?  Today’s feast offers an answer.  Jesus isn’t waiting for the world to come to him; he is going out to it.  He will accept baptism and then go out and “bring forth justice to the nations”.

Ever since the day of his baptism, Jesus has been going out into the world.  First, he did it himself.  Then he sent out Peter and Paul and the other apostles.  And now he is sending us.

But don’t worry; he’s not sending us out alone.  We are part of the “world” that Jesus is going out to minister to.  Today and every day, he comes to fill us with the same Spirit that filled him at his baptism.  So, place yourself in today’s readings.  We are God’s children, and he is pleased with us.  He is asking us to “bring forth justice” to the little corner of “the nations” where we live—and he is with us to help us do it.  Word Among Us

Brothers and sisters today we welcome Luca James into the Catholic faith through the sacrament of Baptism.  It is up to each of us who are present today – family, friends and parishioners to ensure that Luca receives the full benefit of being baptized and grows in his faith and receives the other sacraments of initiation – Confirmation and Eucharist.

His family and Godparents have the primary role of raising Luca in the faith of the Catholic Church.  But all of us here today need to be a part of Luca’s faith journey.  We need to teach him how to pray.  We need to teach him about the sacraments and ensure that he will have a desire to receive each of them and to grow in his faith.  Most importantly, we need to make sure that Luca knows that Jesus loves him and wants to have a personal relationship with him.  That is why he will be sealed with the Holy Spirit – so he has that love poured into him from the Triune God.

In a short while Luca will be anointed with the oil of catechumens and we will ask Christ our Savior to strengthen him with his power.  Strength to endure the obstacles that may come his way.

Then after blessing this water, it will be poured over Luca’s head baptizing him in the Triune name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  He will then rise as one with Jesus at his side and the Holy Spirit will always be there to guide him.

Then Luca will be anointed with sacred chrism – of salvation, and the words “As Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet and King, so may you live always as a member of his body, sharing everlasting life” will be spoken – to remind all of us our mission as baptized Christians.

One final symbol that Luca will receive is the light from the Easter candle – a light that is entrusted to him to be kept burning brightly.  It is our hope that he will walk always as a child of the light and keep the flame of faith alive in his heart.

The sacrament of Baptism is full of wonderful signs and traditions to remind us of the special union we have with Jesus Christ.  Let’s remember this today as we celebrate with Luca his coming to the water of Baptism and being made clean and one with Jesus Christ.  May he continue to grow in his faith; and may Jesus and the Holy Spirit grow in Luca – so all that meet him know that he is a child of God.

What a wonderful way to end this Christmas season and celebrate the feast of the Baptism of the Lord – welcoming our newest member to the Catholic faith and the St. James parish.

Let’s keep Luca and his family in our prayers on this special day.

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