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Homily for the baptism of our Lord

10 Jan 2019, by Rev. Fr. Joel Okojie OSA in Sermons

Today we celebrate the baptism of Jesus Christ; God been baptized by man, a mystery like the incarnation. At the incarnation, a creature, a woman gave birth to her creator. Really amazing! That is the reason the angel Gabriel said she is highly favored.

Jesus' baptismToday we see another highly favored person, John the Baptist. A man God offered the opportunity to baptize his Lord and creator; of all men born of woman, none is truly like John the Baptist.

When Jesus was baptized in the river Jordan, the father spoke from heaven, recognizing him as his Son, saying; you are my beloved Son; with you, I am well pleased. That is what baptism makes us today, beloved Sons and daughters of God. Jesus raised baptism to the level of a sacrament; he raised it over and above, just the sign of repentance as taught by John the Baptist. Jesus raised baptism to the level of a sacrament by accepting baptism in John’s hands and transforming it into a washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit. Jesus had no sins to repent of; accepting baptism in John’s hands, therefore, is only an approver and transformation of it into something else, a sacrament.

John said to the people, repent, and be baptized. But I ask, baptized into what? I am not trying to condemn John’s baptism; God sent him. But I invite you to take a closer look at what happened at the river Jordan that day. So many people came to John the Baptist to be baptized, and he baptized them. When he peptized them, heaven did not speak; the Holy Spirit did not come down. But the moment he stepped into the water and was baptized, the Father’s voice was heard from above, and the Holy Spirit descended on him. His baptism was different; even though he received it from a man’s hands, he sanctified it. John himself was very much aware of a greater baptism, and that was why he said to the people in our gospel reading this morning; I baptize you with water; but he who is mightier than I is coming, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie;  he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

The sacrament of baptism is an initiation, an initiation not into a secret court and a sacred kingdom. That is the reason we baptize infants in our Church; we initiate them into the Church, into the kingdom of God.  It is not just about repentance; if not, we would not be baptizing infants because they have nothing to repent ofInfant baptism apart from the original sin, which is no fault of theirs. Baptism makes them members of the Church even though they are still infants. It is the responsibility of Christian parents to initiate their children into the body of Christ, the Church. Jesus said to the apostles, Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit… . The apostles were sent to baptize all nations and not some nations. Therefore infants are part of all nations, and they are to be made Children of God.

Jesus was not made the Son of God at baptism, no. John tells us that in the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the Word was God (Jn. 1:1). Jesus is the Son of God, and he is God from the beginning; as it was in the beginning, is now and forever shall it be. He accepted baptism in the hands of John not because he wanted to be Son of God but because he wants to make us Sons and daughters of God because he wants to lead us through the waters of baptism himself just as the Father led the people of Israel through the sea into the land of freedom. He accepted baptism because he wants to anoint us just as he himself was anointed with the Holy Spirit. At baptism, the Spirit descended upon him, and he later said to the people in the synagogue, the Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord (Lk. 4:18-19).

Baptism is a sacrament in the Catholic Church that opens the door to the other six sacraments; it empowers us as Christians. St. Paul preached baptism as a sacrament; he preached the anointing power of baptism. He went to Ephesus, and there he met with some believers who were baptized. And he said to them, did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed? And they said, “No, we have never even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “into John’s baptism. And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is Jesus. On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them; and they spoke with tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve of them in all (Acts 19:1-7). That is why in the Catholic Church, baptism goes with anointing with the Holy Chrism, consecrated oil.

By his own baptism, Jesus has anointed us as Sons and daughters of the Father, and we must learn to live our lives as such. We are baptismal people, chosen people, a consecrated people, a people set apart. Therefore, we must learn to stand on the power of our baptism and overcome the spirit of fear. We were certainly not given the spirit of timidity when we were baptized; we were given the Spirit of boldness. We were not given the spirit of confusion, but the Spirit that teaches the truth. As baptized Christians, therefore, we have God’s seal on us; we have the backing of heaven. He says to you today; you are my Son, you are my daughter, with you, I am well pleased. He is not pleased with our sins, but he is pleased with us as his children. Therefore, let us renew our baptismal commitments today and ask God to strengthen our faith in him through Christ, our Lord.


    well done