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Homily for January 9, 2022 – The Baptism of the Lord

Fr. John Denburger, OCSO

The Baptism of the Lord

(Isaiah 42: 1 – 4, 6 – 7; Ps. 29; Acts 10: 34 – 38; Luke 3: 15 – 16, 21 – 22)

In the synagogue in Nazareth Jesus had often heard this passage from Isaiah: “Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am well pleased, upon whom I have put my spirit” and Jesus, advancing in wisdom, age, and grace, as time went on heard them more personally, more insistently, because they resonated in Him as in no one else. One wonders: did He share this with Mary and Joseph? I believe He did.

In addition to these words of election, He heard as well an intimacy, a closeness like no one else: “I, the Lord, called you. I grasped you by the hand. I formed you as a covenant of the people, a light to the nations to heal, to free, to save.” Surely, these words of power, of anointing lived in His heart and anointed His soul like no one else, deeply rooted within Him.

And one day, moved by the Spirit of His Father, He approached John to be baptized – Jesus, the Incarnate Word, having no need of repentance, in His Sacred Humanity “stood in line with sinful humanity” (words of Pope Benedict XVI). He willingly identified with the people and at the same time was the living Good News to them.

As we heard in the Gospel, the aftermath of His baptism by John was astonishing, fearsome to those who witnessed it and heard “the voice”. Overshadowed by the Holy Spirit in bodily form like a dove, He heard a voice from heaven: “You are my beloved Son, with You I am well pleased.” Jesus, in His Sacred Humanity is embraced, affirmed, loved and He will carry this with Him not just as a beautiful memory of a wondrous experience but as a present reality – it will be for Him always here and now because God is the “I AM” – the One always present, always here and now.

On this day as we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord, what truth, what message can you, I take for our own lives? In this homily, I present what I have heard and offer it to you. Perhaps, hopefully, it will be a help, a word for you.

What strikes me is that even before Jesus has proclaimed any word, any message, before He has performed any miracle – before any of these – God the Father and the Holy Spirit reveal their approval, if you will – without any word or action on Jesus’ part. The voice of the Father proclaims for all to hear, “You are my beloved Son, with You I am well pleased” – pleased because You are who You are – My Beloved!

In our own Baptism, there is the ritual of water, oil, white robe, candle, prayer
– what one sees and hears and there is the divine action one does not see yet receives – the gift of the Holy Spirit – the acceptance of us as the Father’s beloved – in whom He is well pleased simply because you/I are His beloved, too.

All our days, we bear the Spirit; all our days, we are the Father’s beloved and His love, His pleasure, His favor is upon us because we are His sons, daughters whether we believe it or not, whether we deny or not – it is reality, not fantasy, not some pious sentiment; we can refuse His love, ignore it, sin against it but it remains. In the letter to the Romans, St. Paul put it this way: “For I am certain that neither death nor life, neither angels nor principalities, neither the present nor the future…neither height nor depth nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God that comes to us in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8)

By our Baptism, we carry this as a relationship of grace, as a power to live, a reality at all times. The love of God remains steadfast, faithful; of course our failures, our sinfulness affect how we respond, can blind us to this reality – yet it stands and will stand because of our God the “I AM”. Nothing can separate us from His love, such is our Baptism into Christ – a sacrament we receive in time yet remains for all time.

In being baptized Jesus, as God and Man identified Himself with us totally and will never deny that. He is the One who ate with sinners, prostitutes, outcasts – who came to the defense of a woman taken in adultery – who forgave a crucified thief. He hated the sin and loved the sinner no matter what. His love received them, blessed them as He does us.

On this feast of the Lord’s Baptism, let us praise and thank Our Lord for His solidarity, identification with us, with you and me. Let us pray for the conviction, the grace, the courage to live identified with Him all our days.