Sanctification: Baptism

Homily for the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord

INTRODUCTION – Tonight we begin our next Life Night homily series called Sanctification. Over the next couple of weeks, we will dive more deeply into how the Lord works to lead us to a place of sanctification, how He calls us to live out the virtue of holiness in our lives. The themes of the three weeks will be Baptism, Mission, and Purpose. In the readings for these weeks, we will see how the Lord has sanctified each of these different elements of the Christian life. Jesus sanctified baptism, raising it from merely a ritual act of cleansing to the dignity of a Sacrament which makes us beloved sons and daughters of God. We will also see how Jesus sanctified our mission as Christians, imprinting on our hearts the desire to do God’s will. Finally, in the last week of the series, we will see how Jesus sanctifies our purpose as Christians, giving each of us a specific vocation through which we come to achieve sanctification. Tonight, we will focus on how Jesus sanctifies baptism and calls us to embrace our own identities as God’s beloved children.

YOU ARE MY BELOVED SON – In today’s Gospel, Jesus approaches his cousin John so that He can be baptized in the waters of the Jordan River. As that happened, the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, descends upon Jesus and the heavens open as the voice of the Father comes thundering down, declaring: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” As I was praying this week with the Baptism of the Lord, I found myself drawn to the question: who was this message of the Father intended for?

THE MESSAGE WASN’T INTENDED FOR… – The message of the Father, “You are my beloved Son,” was not intended for Jesus. Because of the relationship that existed between them, Jesus was already well aware of who He was in the Father’s eyes; He knew His identity. The message wasn’t even intended for John the Baptist – he also knew who Jesus was. As we hear in the Gospel today, John testified to those who were following him that one mightier than he is coming. In the parallel passage to this in the Gospel of John, as Jesus approaches John for baptism, the Baptist exclaims: “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” John knew who Jesus was. So who was the message intended for?

THE MESSAGE WAS INTENDED FOR… – The message of the Father was intended for the followers of John the Baptist, those who were seeking God sincerely in their hearts. John had been preaching about how the Kingdom of God was at hand. He was telling others that they needed to repent of their sins and turn back to God. He was urging them to prepare the way for the Lord. Because of that preaching, the hearts of those individuals had been changed. Now they were being called to recognize the true Messiah and follow Him.

But also, the message of the Father is intended for you and me. It’s a reminder to us that we become children of God at our own baptism.

JESUS DIDN’T NEED BAPTISM – Jesus didn’t need to be baptized. As the Son of God, He was sinless, there was nothing that He needed to be washed clean of. Instead, Jesus humbly submitted himself to baptism in order to sanctify the action, to raise it to the dignity of a Sacrament. It was a way for Jesus to enter more fully into the reality of the human condition and to reveal his strategy for redeeming the world. Through His baptism, all of humanity was given the ability to enter into a deeper, more personal relationship with the Father. Through His baptism, we become sanctified.

When we are baptized, we become the adopted children of God. Just as the Spirit of God descended upon Jesus in His baptism, so, too, does the Spirit come down upon us at our own baptisms. In that moment, the Father claims us as His beloved sons and daughters. For us, too, a voice comes down from Heaven declaring “You are my beloved son” or “You are my beloved daughter.” The important question that we have to ask ourselves is, do we believe that we are God’s sons and daughters?

WE DON’T BELIEVE IT – If we are completely honest with ourselves, there are times when we don’t believe that we are God’s beloved children. We look at our lives and we see our sins, our mistakes, our failings, our shortcomings. We think: “There’s no way the God could ever love someone like me because of the things that I’ve done.” If that doesn’t describe you, then praise God! You’re a lot holier than most of us, myself included. But for those of us who do experience that thought, it can be hard to accept God’s love for us because we buy into the idea that our sin is what defines us. Let’s recognize that for what it is! We think God loves everyone but me?! That is a lie placed on our hearts from the Evil One himself and he uses that to bring us to a place of despair.

CLAIM THE TITLE – Instead, let’s remind ourselves of the Truth. God loves us so immensely that He sent His Son into the world, to take on every aspect of our humanity except sin, to teach us how to live our lives in accordance with the will of the Father. God sent His Son into the world to take on our sin and to redeem us from it. He sent His Son into the world so that we could become His children, heirs to the Kingdom of Heaven. He sent His Son into the world to suffer and die for us so that we could one day return to Him. All we have to do is claim the title as beloved son or beloved daughter. That’s our true identity. We’re not defined by what we have done, the mistakes we’ve made. That’s how Satan defines us: he knows our names but calls us by our sin. God, on the other hand, knows our sin but calls us by our name. That’s the identity we need to claim!

HOW DO WE DO THAT? – It starts by asking God for the grace of knowing what our true identity is. We can’t claim something if the Lord doesn’t first reveal it to us. But in order to have Him reveal it, we have to be able to hear His voice and respond to it – we have to have a relationship with Him. This week let’s spend some time working on hearing the voice of the Lord. Open that Bible that might be collecting dust at home. Spend time in prayer with the Father – share your day with Him, the struggles you face. Invite him into your hearts tonight. Join us on Thursday at 7pm for ADORE with adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, praise and worship, and a talk from one of our young adults who will be further breaking open this topic of what it means to be a beloved son and daughter of God.

CONCLUSION – The Lord is reminding us of who we are. Through the sanctification of baptism in the waters of the Jordan and through our own baptisms, we have become heirs to the Kingdom of God. Being God’s beloved calls us to live in a particular way. Knowing our identity more deeply enables us to continually listen to the voice of God, seeking to understand how He is calling us to live, which will be the topic of the homilies for the upcoming weeks. But today, the Lord speaks to us the same words that He spoke to Jesus: “You are my beloved son, you are my beloved daughter; in you I am well pleased.” Do we believe it?

Published by Fr. Tom Pringle

Priest of the Diocese of Orlando. Parochial Vicar at Holy Family Catholic Church, Orlando.

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