Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Baptism of the Lord Year B

Readings: Isaiah 55:1-11; 1 John 5:1-9; Mark 1:7-11

The power of Baptism and the cleansing of our sinfulness are some of the words that help to sum up best the message of this Sunday. For just as the rain and the snow do not return till they water the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, so too shall my word be. The feast we celebrate this Sunday is more than the Baptism of Jesus. It underlines the power that Baptism had on Jesus. Our Baptism too should have an impact on us for we are baptized into Christ. We see the power of baptism in the 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. It is in this sense that John in the Second Reading understand the power of Baptism when he says that the person "begotten by God conquers the world." 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, so that it may continually make the human soul fertile.

Speaking of the power of Baptism, there is a true story told about Mikhail Gorbachev. Nearly 20 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union's atheist empire, he admitted in 2008 that he was a Christian. Gorbachev's grandparents had him baptized secretly in the Russian Orthodox Church. 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 that 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 St. John Paul II 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 seemed to have given John Paul II the passion and 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. 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 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, restore and reconcile us with the Father.  So what message do we take home? 1) Our Baptism is an immersion with Christ and a rising with him into new life with Christ. 2) Baptism enables us to be more engaged in parish ministries and services of compassion, forgiveness and reconciliation. 3) The secret power of baptism is described in the amazing metaphor by Isaiah in terms of the rain and the snow that do not return till they water the earth, making it fertile and fruitful. It is this power that transforms us into God’s adopted sons and daughters. It is this power that drives us with a passion to share our faith with others..

©2014 John S. Mbinda

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