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Feast of the Baptism of the Lord 2009

 
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Fr.Paul Weinberger
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Joined: 06 May 2005
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Location: Greenville, Texas

PostPosted: Sat Jan 17, 2009 6:29 pm    Post subject: Feast of the Baptism of the Lord 2009 Reply with quote

Feast of the Baptism of the Lord 2009

Homily by:
Father Paul Weinberger
Saint William the Confessor Catholic Church
Greenville, Texas
January 11, 2009

You know the word that he sent to the Israelites as he proclaimed peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all, what has happened all over Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached, how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power.

In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit

Amen

Today is the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord and the close of the Christmas Season; tomorrow begins Ordinary Time. The Baptism of the Lord comes after the Sunday that we celebrate the Feast of the Three Kings, the Adoration of the Magi, and of course there is an important connection there.

Recently I had to go to the hospital to baptize a newborn baby because the baby was about to undergo an operation in the near future. After saying the baby’s name I said, “I baptize you in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” I invoked the Most Blessed Trinity; those Three Persons are mentioned in today’s Gospel. There is Jesus, the Holy Spirit descending like a dove, and then the Voice from the Heavens, “You are My beloved Son,” which indicates that this is the Voice of God the Father. After I baptized the baby, the baby looked the same as before I started except that now we had to dry him off. However, he now had an indelible mark put upon his soul that will be there when he goes to meet God, whenever that will be.

Just as that baby was baptized this year in 2009, we remember the baptism of Christ. That baby had original sin removed. Of course he has yet to commit any personal sins. Why would Jesus bother being baptized when He had no original sin? His mother was conceived immaculately; she could have sinned but chose not to. If Jesus was born without original sin then why was He baptized?

St. Maximus of Turin, in the Divine Office last week was speaking of the Baptism of Christ in the Jordan. He wrote this.

Quote:
For when the Savior is washed all water for our baptism is made clean, purified at its source with a dispensing of baptismal grace to the people of future ages. Christ is the first to be baptized then so that Christians will follow after Him with confidence.


This is exactly what we need to think of when we go through the waters of baptism and come out the other side; we have to follow Christ with confidence the same way the chosen people followed the column of fire by night and the pillar of cloud by day through the Red Sea with the water to the left and right. The water for the Hebrew people was a symbol of great danger. Do you notice how the whole of the chosen people were taken out of Egypt, a place of slavery, and through the Red sea…a baptism if you will of the entire chosen people, then through the desert to the Promised Land? They followed the fire by night and the cloud by day with confidence. That was not the case for Pharaoh and his charioteers because a very different fate awaited them. So, if you and I follow Christ through the waters of baptism and then subsequently follow after Him with confidence then we too will reach our promised inheritance, which is Heaven.

The waters eluded to by the Red Sea bring to mind the waters of the great flood, and St. Proclus of Constantinople writes about this day, the Baptism of the Lord, and he brings to mind Noah and the great flood, comparing the two.

Quote:
Consider this new and wonderful flood (meaning the baptism of the Lord) greater and more important than the flood of Noah’s day. Back then the water of the flood destroyed the human race but now the water of baptism has recalled the dead to life by the power of the One, Who was baptized. In the days of the flood a dove with an olive branch in his beak foreshadowed the fragrance of the good odor of Christ the Lord.


Remember the notable sign that the flood was over was that the dove returned to the Ark with the branch of the Olive tree in its beak, but in the Baptism of the Lord,

Quote:
Now the Holy Spirit coming in the likeness of a dove reveals the Lord of Mercy.


In the book that came out months ago by the Holy Father, Jesus of Nazareth, he mentioned the mercy or compassion of God and he calls to mind that the verb used in the Gospel today that the Heavens were “torn” open. The verb that is used there is the same verb used to describe the womb of a mother giving birth to her child. For the Hebrews, the womb was the ultimate symbol of compassion, tenderness, and mercy. And so, God in His compassion for a fallen human race, God in his mercy, God in His tenderness opens the Heavens and anoints Christ with the Holy Spirit.

Have you ever thought about that? Maybe you are thinking, “I thought Christ was always united to the Holy Spirit; do you mean there is a time when He wasn’t and it was only on the day at 30 years old when He was baptized?” Not at all! You see, Christ is true God and true man and in His Divinity He is eternally united to God the Father and the Holy Spirit. His humanity came into being nine months before Christmas, then He was born and at about the age of 30 He was baptized.

St. Cyril of Alexandria, Doctor of the Church writes this,

Quote:
The only begotten Son receives the Spirit but not for His own advantage; for the Spirit is His and is given in Him and through Him. Jesus receives the Spirit to renew our nature, our human nature in its entirety and to make it whole again. For Jesus in becoming man took our entire nature to Himself. If we reason correctly and use also the testimony of Scripture we can see that Christ did not receive the Spirit for Himself but rather for us in Him. For it is also through Christ that all gifts come down to us.


When will Christians begin to understand this? Every gift going back to Adam and Eve, every gift at the present moment, and any gift that will ever come into this world has one source, the Sacred Heart of Jesus. That is exactly what St. Cyril wrote just a few centuries after Christ.

Quote:
It is through Christ that all gifts come down to us.


This is the image of the Baptism of the Lord that we see today. The very compassion, mercy, and tenderness of God descends upon a fallen human race, fallen because of the original sin and then the subsequent personal sins.

The Responsorial Psalm makes mention of so many of these things that we find in the Gospel today. Notice in the Responsorial Psalm it says,

The voice of the Lord is over the waters, the LORD over the vast waters.

It is speaking of the voice of God there over the entire scene.

The LORD is enthroned above the flood.

These images show the presence of God over the waters the same way we see the creation of the world out of nothing in Genesis. Here in the Gospel we see the recreation of the world by the baptism of the Lord. This is something for us to seriously consider and meditate upon.

In the First Reading, to read the first line is to understand the role of Jesus.

Thus says the LORD: Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen One with whom I am pleased, upon whom I have put My Spirit;

That is right out of the Gospel. Isaiah came centuries before Christ and we hear all of that in the closing lines of the Gospel. The Lord says, God says that Jesus is His Servant. If you read the Prophet Isaiah in the Old Testament you find Christ referenced there as the Suffering Servant of God. This is His role and His destiny for us men and for our salvation. The Holy Father shows again and again in his book how Christ begins at this low point in the river Jordan, to lead us to the top of Golgotha right outside the gates of Jerusalem, where Jesus would be crucified so that after His death He would rise and then forty days after His death lead us to the mountain outside Jerusalem to the Ascension.

On page 38 and 39 of the pope’s book, he quotes those last words in St. Matthew’s Gospel.

Quote:
The risen Lord gathers His followers on the mountain and on this mountain He does indeed say these words, “All authority in Heaven and on earth has been given to Me. These are the parting words of Christ. Two details here are new and different. The Lord has power in Heaven and on earth and only someone, who has this fullness of authority, has the real saving power. Without Heaven earthly power is always ambiguous and fragile.


Anytime you see power without Heaven on the local level, on the state level, on the national level, or international level you always find power, which is ambiguous and fragile. And when you find that… it is always a good time to grab your wallet. Right? Remember Wall Street having power without Heaven? Look what happened! Ambiguous and fragile is this earthly power.

Jesus does not have such ambiguous and fragile power, He has given us an indelible mark, a mark that cannot be washed away by any flood. We will go before God with that mark. It will be up to us to see if we have lived up to that great calling. The Holy Father continues.

Quote:
Only when power submits to the measure and judgment of Heaven can it become power for good, and only when power stands under God’s blessing can it be trusted.


Isn’t Jesus standing there in the Jordan River under God’s blessing? Aren’t we to trust Him, to lead us like the column of fire or the pillar of cloud? A column goes from one point to another, like the ground to the lentil in tablature. In other words, a column supports something. It is the same way a bridge goes from one point to another. Try getting over 1-30 without a bridge; I don’t recommend it. Can you imagine if 1-30 had no bridges and people were crossing north and south over the interstate? It would be a parking lot.

Jesus is truly our bridge between Heaven and earth and that is why the Christmas hymn is so joyful. “Let Heaven and nature sing.” Jesus is the only power, which stands under God’s blessing and which can be trusted. If only we would listen to and follow these words.

On page 34 of the pope’s book he speaks of the chosen people following that light out of the darkness of Egypt and through the Red Sea, the desert, and then to the Promised Land.

Quote:
We live in this world where God is not so manifest as tangible things are but can be sought and found only when the heart sets out on the “exodus” from “Egypt”. It is in this world that be are obliged to resist the delusions of false philosophies and to recognize that we do not live by bread alone but first and foremost obedience to God’s word. Only when this obedience to God’s word is put into practice does the attitude develop that is also capable of providing bread for all.


So, obedience to God’s word is very necessary. At the beginning of this year too many Catholics believe that the Ten Commandments are now the Ten Suggestions, and we could probably carve off a few of those suggestions so we won’t be bothered with the Ten Commandments. Christ lived according to those Ten Commandments and if we confidently follow Him, we too live those Ten Commandments.

Speaking of this, I have one more quote from the Holy Father’s book from a priest, who was executed by the Nazis, Fr. Alfred Delp. You will recognize the quote because I have used it before. It is so perfect for this Feast Day.

Quote:
Bread is important, freedom is more important, but most important of all is unbroken fidelity and faithful adoration.


Yes, bread, earthly food is important but what is more important is freedom. What is most important is unbroken fidelity and faithful adoration. What is unbroken fidelity if not the Person of Christ? He is unbroken fidelity and He is what is most important for us. Faithful adoration kind of brings to mind those three Wide Men, who’d traveled, following the star all the way to Bethlehem, adored Jesus, and then left only to return following the star, they would not be worthy of the title Wise Men. But after they left Bethlehem they spent the rest of their lives in faithful adoration of Jesus Christ. We cannot confidently follow Jesus from His baptism to His crucifixion without the cross. We must see that what is most important is unbroken fidelity and faithful adoration, and confidently follow Jesus throughout this year. In doing so we are living according to those baptismal promises, those vows that we made or were made for us, from which we have benefited tremendously.

You see, Jesus stands in the Jordan River and as so many Kings of Israel, He was anointed. He wasn’t anointed with oil but with the Holy Spirit. He stretches from the earth to Heaven. This is not some make-believe or play-like game of children but this is true. His power is not ambiguous or fragile. These images in the Gospel today are so important to us if we hope to enter the Promised Land. How many thought, “He led me through the Red Sea, I am going to enter the Promised Land.” No, almost all of them died off in the desert because they grumbled against God. Only a handful went into the Promised Land, and WE are so sure that we are following God?

I would be content if I knew that all of my parishioners, every time they pressed a button, were following Christ. You know, like the button on your TV changer, the button on your mouse, the button on the phone? These are three great opportunities for terrible things to happen to that baptismal innocence bestowed upon us by this Baptism of Christ. He opens the door for all of our baptisms and look what we do with such a great gift. As the Acts of the Apostles says so beautifully,

You know the word that he sent to the Israelites as he proclaimed peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all, what has happened all over Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached, how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power.

In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit

Amen
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