St Francis Q&A

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Baptism of the Lord - homily

I would like to make two announcements to start. The first is that there is an insert in your bulletin which is a letter on marriage from the Maryland Catholic Bishops. The bishops are encouraging us to get involved with some important legislation that the Maryland General Assembly is considering which would allow same-sex marriage or civil unions in this state. The legislation would not protect the sacred institution of marriage; rather, it would radically change it. The bishops have given a website ( at the end of the letter. We should all come to the defense of marriage which is the oldest and most important institution in the world.

The second announcement is that there will be a retreat for men who are in their twenties, thirties, and forties and considering a call to the priesthood from February 1-3. If you or someone you know might be interested in this retreat, please see me after Mass or email me. This week is National Vocations Awareness Week; please continue to pray for vocations, especially from St. Andrew’s.

We have an awesome scene in today’s Gospel with the Baptism of the Lord. Jesus is baptized by John in the Jordan. Many people ask why Jesus was baptized; he didn’t need to be cleansed in any way. His baptism is not for him but for us; it’s an example for us. Moreover, the baptism of the Lord is different from all the Jewish baptism before his. We see and hear things from this scene that show us that his baptism and all Christian baptisms are new; everything is new in Christ, and Christ makes all things new.

First, the Spirit descended upon Jesus “like a dove”. This is new. Jesus was anointed with the Spirit, as the second reading from Acts tells us. It is the Spirit that is present at major points in Jesus’ life, leading Him. Second, “the heavens were opened”. This is the first time the heavens were opened since they were closed at the Fall of Man with Adam and Eve. The third new thing we hear about is “a voice came from the heavens, saying, ‘This is my beloved Son’”. This is the first time a voice came from heaven saying, ‘this is my Son”. God has a son and his name is Jesus! His baptism is new; all Christian baptisms are new and have the same elements as his baptism. At our baptisms, it was like there was a voice coming from Heaven saying, “this is my beloved son…this is my beloved daughter”.

All things are made new in Christ. We have a new covenant with God in Christ. Christ is the new covenant. As the first reading from Isaiah tells us, God’s servant will be the “covenant of the people”. Christ is that servant. God has given us seven ways – the seven sacraments - to live in the new covenant. Whenever we receive any of the seven sacraments, we participate in the new covenant with God. Baptism in Christ is entry into the new covenant. The baptized person is literally a “new creation”. This newness is most especially true with Baptism, but it is also true that whenever we participate in the sacrament of Reconciliation, we are made “new creations”, new persons. To live out the new covenant in Christ is to be continually renewed.

We come to drink the blood of the new covenant with the Eucharist. We come to be renewed by this sacrament. And, we have the same Trinitarian formula as with the scene of the Baptism of the Lord. The Eucharist is an offering to the Father, in the Son, and through the Spirit. May each one of us live a Trinitarian life centered on the Eucharist. May our lives be offerings to the Father, in the Son, and through the Spirit.


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