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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Baptism is Only the Beginning

Sermon by Rev. John Paul Shea
The Baptism of the Lord, Jan. 11, 2015
Saints Peter & Paul Parish, Tucson, AZ

Today, the Church celebrates the Baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ.

This marks the end of the Christmas season, which began Dec. 25 with the birth of Our Lord, followed by the Feast of the Holy Family and then Epiphany -- Our Lord’s
manifestation through the light of a mysterious star. Today we celebrate our Lord’s immersion into the waters of the River Jordon.

The focus of today’s celebration is not simply on Our Lord, but also on us. We celebrate Our Lord’s Baptism, but we are reminded that Our Lord was baptized so that we can be baptized through Him and enjoy new life in Him. 

In today’s short Gospel passage from Mark 1:7-11, Jesus is baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordon River.

We should ask ourselves, why was Jesus baptized? After all, John’s baptism was a baptism for repentance, but Jesus was sinless and had no need of repentance.

There are many reasons. Jesus was about to embark on His public ministry and it was fitting that He be revealed as the One who would fulfill the baptism of John. 

John was the voice crying out in the wilderness preparing the people for the Messiah who was to come. By baptizing Jesus, John declared Jesus to be The messiah. The entire event would reveal to all generations that Jesus is the perfect embodiment of the triune God! And through His baptism, our Lord would give us a new beginning! We were invited to join God's own triune family, to receive a new identity in God. Those who receive Our Lord’s baptism will receive new life!

Fr. J.P. Shea
My brothers and sisters, Christ was baptized in the Jordon not to be made holy by the water. He was baptized to make the water holy. And by his cleansing, Our Lord would purify the waters, which he touched. 

In His baptism, Christ sanctified our human nature. When Our Lord was washed, all water for baptism was made clean and purified for the dispensing of baptismal grace for Christians of all ages!

Christ was the first to be baptized, so that all Christians will enter the saving waters after him -- with confidence. Jesus
receives the Spirit at His baptism in order to renew our nature in its entirety and to make it whole again. For becoming man, Jesus took our entire nature to Himself so that we can become holy as He is holy.

Therefore, our baptism is not the end of our Christian life, it is only the beginning. We are all called to a mission through our baptism, and today’s feast helps us to reflect on how we are living this mission in our Christian life.

The baptism of Jesus signifies that we are becoming a new creation. In our baptism we Christians are born again as members of our Lord’s Church. We become our Lord’s chosen people. We are to be a people set apart from the world. In baptism we identify with Christ’s death and resurrection. We die to our sinful nature so that we can live with our Lord in His resurrected nature. Therefore, we must strive to live out our baptismal call! We must strive to live holy lives!

In today’s second reading (1John 5:1-9), John says, “If [we] love God and want to live as His children than [we] must keep His commandments.” So to live as a child of God, we must strive to keep our Lord’s commandments. All of them!

Just because we have been baptized does not mean that we have automatic entrance into heaven. No! Each one of us can forfeit heaven by dying in a state of mortal sin -- by irrevocably rejecting God.

When we commit mortal sin, we separate ourselves from God, and we become blind to the truth! Sin brings hurt upon others and upon ourselves. This is why we see so much sadness, guilt and shame in our world today!  But, Our Lord intervenes. He comes to give us new life in the Spirit, if only we allow His Spirit to purify our hearts and our actions! Our  new birth begins at baptism. Now we must continually be strengthened and purified in our baptismal life through the sacrament of confession and the gift of the Eucharist.

As we come together to celebrate the Baptism of our Lord, let us reflect on the gift of our own baptism. Let us be freed from  sinful ways that hold us captive. Strive to live in holiness and purity so that one day we too will hear the words, “You are my beloved Son  (daughter). With you I am well pleased.” God bless you.

Did you enjoy this homily. There's more! Read Fr. John Paul Shea on St. John the Baptist: He testified to the Light!

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