Friday, January 9, 2009

January 11: The Baptism of the Lord Year B

January 11: The Baptism of the Lord Year B
Readings: Isaiah 55:1-11; 1 John 5:1-9; Mk. 1:7-11

This Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of the Baptism of the Lord. The Baptism of Jesus is found in all three Synoptic Gospels, each with its own particular emphasis. According to these accounts, it was only after his Baptism that Jesus entered into a deep spiritual preparation in the desert for his ministry. The feast we celebrate this Sunday is more than the Baptism of Jesus. It underlines the power of Sacrament of Baptism. Our Baptism should have an impact on us for we are baptized into Christ. We see the power of baptism in readings of this Sunday. The prophet Isaiah compares God's word to rain that comes down from heaven and does not return without watering the earth and making it fertile. Baptism waters the dry earth of the human soul. John, in the Second Reading tells us that the person "begotten by God conquers the world." He does not mean that we will be like Alexander the Great, but that we have the power to stand up to seductions of our culture. Jesus himself accepted baptism - not because he needed any strength from the water, but because he wanted to give power to the water of Baptism.

Speaking of the power of Baptism, there is a true story that on March 19 2008, Nearly 20 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union's atheist empire, Mikhail Gorbachev has admitted he is a Christian. Gorbachev's grandparents had him baptized secretly in the Russian Orthodox. On a visit to Italy the last president of the Communist state prayed at the tomb of St. Francis of Assisi, and later told priests the saint had played a fundamental role in his life. We can say without hesitation that his baptism influenced him to bring an end to Communism and the Iron curtain which he transformed into glasnost. Some of you might remember the beautiful moment in 1979 when Pope John Paul returned to Wadowice, his birthplace where he was baptized in 1920. The Holy Father went to the Baptismal Font, knelt down and reverently kissed it. That act seems to have given John Paul II the energy to eventually bring Communism to its knees. The sacrament of baptism has great power. In the Gospel Reading, Jesus comes to John to be baptized. Though John tries to resist, Jesus insists that he should be baptized by John the Baptist saying that we should all do what God requires us to do. At his Baptism, the Holy Spirit on descends upon Jesus and the Spirit leads him into the desert for an intensive preparation. From there Jesus goes through Galilee and to Jerusalem to His death on the cross and resurrection. The puzzling question is why should Jesus have to be baptized since he had no sin? The answer is twofold. In His birth, God’s Son becomes one with us. In His baptism by John the Baptist, God’s Son becomes one with us in our sinful state, in our state of alienation from God the Father. Christ becomes immersed in our tainted human nature. Jesus is totally immersed in our human alienated condition so that he may cleanse us and reconcile us with the Father. So what is the message? 1) Our Baptism is an immersion with Christ and a rising with him into new life with Christ. 2) Our Baptism enables us to engage in various ministries, effecting God’s mercy, compassion, forgiveness and reconciliation; 3) The secret power of our baptism is found in our union with God because in the waters of Baptism we are reborn as God’s sons and daughters.

©2009 John M. Mbinda

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