Sunday, 12 January 2020 : Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday after the Solemnity of the Epiphany we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord which marks the end of the liturgical season of Christmas. Therefore officially the celebration of Christmas is over by the end of today and from tomorrow we will begin with the first part of the Ordinary Time of this current liturgical year cycle, that is until the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday.

On this day, the Baptism of the Lord at the Jordan River by St. John the Baptist is a symbolic reminder of the end of the Christmas festivities, as the Lord began His ministry in this world at the moment when He was baptised. He was no longer hidden from the world as it was when He was still a Child and during His early growing up years. After His Baptism, He began His ministry, through the forty days of temptation later on by the devil and then began gathering His disciples and started His works.

When the Lord was baptised, there were many things that happened which we should take note of, and how these are all significant for our understanding of both our faith and what we ourselves need to do as Christians, as those who believe that Jesus Christ, the One baptised by St. John that day, is truly the Lord and Saviour of the whole world. His Baptism proclaimed the truth of the coming of the long awaited Messiah, and fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet Isaiah in our first reading today.

In that prophecy, God showed how His Servant would come into this world, proclaiming His love and mercy, delivering His truth and liberating the people from the darkness and destruction caused by their sins. When Jesus was baptised, immediately the heavens opened and a Dove descended on Him, as the Holy Spirit descended on the Lord Jesus, and the voice of the Father could be heard, proclaiming that Jesus was truly the Son of God, the Beloved and Chosen One, sent into this world out of His love for us all.

In that very moment, we have actually witnessed through the Gospel passage, the manifestation of God’s plan for our salvation, as the Holy Trinity of Father, Son and the Holy Spirit came into that occasion in one place, showing how God would redeem His people by the giving of His Son to this world. And it was also very important that Jesus insisted to be baptised by St. John although the latter really wanted to be baptised by Jesus instead.

That is because through baptism, the Lord showed that by our common baptism, which we shared with Him, we have shared in His death with water being often associated with both death and life. And He also made the same connection as our baptism is, to the moment when the Lord led His people Israel through the Red Sea, passing through the water of the sea from their slavery in Egypt into the freedom towards the Land promised to them.

Thus, through His humanity, the Human nature He possessed in Him, Christ made His Baptism to be united to our own Sacrament of Baptism, when through the power and authority He bestowed on His Church and the Apostles, He made us all, who are baptised to be members of the Church, be it as an infant or as an adult through conversion, God’s own adopted children. That is because if Christ is the Son of God, and the Father called Him as His Son, we who have been baptised are also made the children of the Father, God’s beloved ones.

And brothers and sisters in Christ, that is not the end of it all. Instead, it is merely just the beginning, as I have mentioned earlier how Christ began His ministry after His Baptism, we too have also begun our new life in Christ and embarked on a new journey of faith from the moment we were baptised. Through baptism we have been marked as God’s own beloved children, and because of that, we have also been entrusted with the mission of the Church, to go forth and evangelise the truth which Christ has brought into this world.

Baptism is not the end of our faith journey, contrary to what some have been thinking. It does not mean that after we have been baptised that we are already saved by God and therefore had no more need to follow God’s will and do what He has told us to do. Rather, through baptism, we have been fundamentally changed in our being, as we have been made the spiritual children of God, and God has become our Father.

And if we are God’s children and He is our Father, is it not then just right and proper that we follow what our Father taught us to do? How can we call ourselves as God’s children if our lives are contrary to His will and if we do what is wicked and evil in His eyes? And if God is our Father, is it not right that we act in ways that conform with His ways and bring glory to His Name? This is our journey of faith that we began at our baptism.

Therefore today, as we mark the end of the Christmas season with this Feast of the Baptism of the Lord let us all focus on the moment of the Lord’s baptism at the Jordan, and unite it with our own baptism, if we can remember it well. For those of us who have been baptised as adults, try to remember that moment when the holy water of baptism touched us, either by immersion or at our foreheads. And for those of us who have been baptised as infants, ask our parents and/or godparents for that moment.

Let us all remember our baptism, its date and time, and more importantly, our promise at baptism which we renew at Easter every year. We profess faith in God as expressed in the Creed, in all its fullness and we profess that we will reject Satan and all of his lies, his advances and all the falsehoods he presents before us. And today, therefore, we are reminded by this moment of Christ’s baptism that we have our respective journeys ahead of us, and we need to do what we can to fulfil what God has called us to do through baptism.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all from now on be exemplary in our lives and dedicate ourselves to God anew, with the desire to follow Him, our Lord and Father because we are His beloved children. Let us all sin no more and try our best to obey the will of our Father and love Him more, just as He has loved us all so much that He has given us Christ, His Son to redeem us and to bring us a new hope. By our baptism, we have been made as partakers of this same hope and promise of eternal life.

May the Lord, our Father continue to watch over us and guide us in our journey of faith, and may He grant us the strength and courage to live our lives faithfully from now on so that we may become inspirations for one another in being good and faithful Christians. May all of us bear witness to Christ’s truth by our lives and do our best to serve Him at all times, devoting our time, attention and effort always as we journey together in faith as the members of God’s one Church. Amen.

Sunday, 12 January 2020 : Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 3 : 13-17

At that time, Jesus arrived from Galilee and came to John at the Jordan, to be baptised by Him. But John tried to prevent Him, and said, “How is it, You come to me? I should be baptised by You!”

But Jesus answered him, “Let it be like that for now; so that we may fulfil the right order.” John agreed.

As soon as He was baptised, Jesus came up out of the water. All at once, the heavens opened and He saw the Spirit of God come down, like a Dove, and rest upon Him. At the same time, a voice from heaven was heard, “This is My Son, the Beloved; He is My Chosen One.”

Sunday, 12 January 2020 : Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 10 : 34-38

Peter then spoke to Cornelius and his family, “Truly, I realise that God does not show partiality, but in all nations He listens to everyone who fears God and does good. And this is the message He has sent to the children of Israel, the Good News of peace He has proclaimed through Jesus Christ, Who is the Lord of all.”

“No doubt you have heard of the event that occurred throughout the whole country of the Jews, beginning from Galilee, after the baptism John preached. You know how God anointed Jesus the Nazarean with Holy Spirit and power. He went about doing good and healing all who were under the devil’s power, because God was with Him.”

Sunday, 12 January 2020 : Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 28 : 1a and 2, 3ac-4, 3b and 9b-10

Give the Lord, o sons of God, give the Lord glory and strength, give the Lord the glory due His Name; worship the Lord in great liturgy.

The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord thunders over vast waters. How powerful is the voice of the Lord, how splendorous is the voice of the Lord.

The voice of the Lord makes the oaks shudder, the Lord strips the forests bare, and in His Temple all cry, “Glory!” Over the flood the Lord was sitting; the Lord is King and He reigns forever.

Sunday, 12 January 2020 : Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Isaiah 42 : 1-4, 6-7

Here is My Servant Whom I uphold, My Chosen One in Whom I delight. I have put My Spirit upon Him, and He will bring justice to the nations. He does not shout or raise His voice, proclamations are not heard in the streets. A broken reed He will not crush, nor will He snuff out the light of the wavering wick. He will make justice appear in truth.

He will not waver or be broken until He has established justice on earth; the islands are waiting for His law. I, YHVH, have called You for the sake of justice; I will hold Your hand to make You firm; I will make You as a Covenant to the people, and as a Light to the nations, to open eyes that do not see, to free captives from prison, to bring out to light those who sit in darkness.

Sunday, 13 January 2019 : Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which is liturgically marking the last day of the current season of Christmas before we enter the Ordinary Time prior to the coming of the season of Lent in early March this year. On this day we commemorate the moment when the Lord Jesus was baptised at the River Jordan by St. John the Baptist, marking the occasion when the Lord finally began His ministry in this world after approximately thirty years since His birth.

St. John the Baptist was apprehensive at first when the Lord came up tp him asking to be baptised by him. He recognised Jesus as the One Whom he had been working all the while for, in order to prepare a straight path for His coming, and of Whom he had testified before the people, that not even he was worthy of untying the straps of His sandals, and how although he baptised with water, but the Lord would baptise them with the fire and the Holy Spirit.

But the Lord insisted despite St. John the Baptist’s reluctance, for everything was to be done in accordance with God’s will. The baptism of Our Lord Jesus was a momentous occasion, in which, the Lord Himself, God Incarnate in the flesh of Man, went through the same rite of passage as all of us the faithful people of God, just as by Him assuming His humanity has united His humanity to our own human existence.

The act of baptism itself, as St. John the Baptist performed it at the Jordan River, is a powerful symbol and reminder, that the people of God have been saved and liberated from slavery, as the Israelites in the ancient times were brought out of the land of Egypt where they were enslaved by the Egyptians and their Pharaoh. When the Pharaoh sent his army and chariots to chase after the Israelites, God opened the Red Sea before them and allowed them to pass through the sea unharmed.

Therefore, by the passing through the waters of the Red Sea, God’s people had been brought by the great power of God from slavery into freedom. And this is linked to another slavery by which not just the sons of Israel, but all mankind suffer from, that is the slavery to our sins. Sin is born out of disobedience and unwillingness to obey the will of God, and its consequence for us is death. Unless we are freed from the slavery of sin, we will surely perish.

This is where God revealed the great wonders of His love for each and every one of us, that even when we have sinned against Him, disobeyed His commandments and disregarded His will, but because God still loves us regardless of these wicked things we have done, He gives us a new hope and deliverance, just as He has once liberated His people from the tyranny of the Egyptians and their Pharaoh.

This time, He is liberating us from the greatest slavery that has enslaved all of us mankind, that is sin and death. And the symbolism of water that is used at baptism is indeed very profound, for water is both the symbol of death and life, as it can cause destruction by its powerful force, and yet, it is also necessary for the presence and propagation of life. Without water, life cannot exist, and water is essential for the maintenance of life.

By this symbolism of water, which is both used at the baptism of the Lord at the River Jordan, and in our own Christian baptism, the Holy Sacrament of Baptism, the Lord unites us all who have received this blessed and holy Sacrament, to His own experience of suffering and death, as well as to His glorious resurrection and triumph over sin and death itself. We share in the same redemptive experience that the people of Israel had experienced by the Red Sea and throughout the Exodus, and now we have even much more than that.

For God Himself has willingly endeavoured to save us, by His mighty deeds, in leading us out of the tyranny and enslavement by sin, through none other than His own beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Who is God incarnate, the Word of God made Man, through Whom God has given us our salvation. The Lord unites our own mortality to His own humanity, and gathers all of our unworthiness, our sufferings and pains, our sins and all the defilements present in us, and placing them upon Himself on the cross He bore, He became the source of our salvation and eternal life.

That is why, on the celebration of the Easter Vigil, on which day most people who are baptised as adults receive this blessed Sacrament of Baptism, we have the reading of the passage from Exodus on the salvation of Israel crossing through the Red Sea. Just as the Israelites passed on from their old life of slavery and suffering into a new life of blessing and grace with God, thus, we too, have passed on from our old life of sin and disobedience against God, into a new existence and life that is blessed and holy.

That is why, the Sacrament of Baptism is the first of the Sacraments to be received by any Christians. We received it either as a small infant, if we had been born into faithful, Christian families, or as someone who have desired and sought conversion to the true faith, and went through a period of instruction, after which we were baptised just as the Lord Himself was baptised in the Jordan.

At the moment of baptism, our old life and our old iniquities and sins are washed away and cleansed, and our existence is renewed and made blessed by God. Our old life and sin have been destroyed just as we share in the death of Christ on the cross. And through baptism, God made us all His adopted sons and daughters, just as at Baptism of the Lord Jesus, the voice of the Father was heard, “This is My Son, My Beloved. My favour rests on Him.”

This is why we have also been made the sons and daughters of God, by virtue of our shared humanity with Christ. If Christ is the Son of God, and if we are His brothers and sisters by our shared humanity, then we too can be called children of God. And because God has taken us to be His children, the fullness of His love and grace are slated to be ours. But we must also remember at the same time, that baptism is not the end of the journey for us.

Although baptism has erased the taints of original sin and the sins we have committed previous to our baptism, but this does not mean that we cannot sin anymore after our baptism. We are surely aware how many of us Christians keep on falling back again and again into sin, not listening to the will of God, our loving Father, and instead, preferring to follow the lies and falsehoods of Satan, the deceiver.

Satan knows that through baptism, he has lost his hold on us, and sin and death no longer has their grip on us. But, he still does not want to let us go, and as long as we still continue living in this world, our earthly existence, our bodies and our beings are still vulnerable to sin, and this is where the devil is trying very hard to try to pull us back into sin. And we must be careful lest we fall back into the same predicament, for if we live in a state of sin, we may yet fall into eternal damnation.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today, as we commemorate the glorious and wonderful moment of the baptism of Our Lord Jesus Christ, let us all remember the moment of our own baptism. If we cannot remember it because we have been baptised as infants, then the least we can do is, try to remember the date and time of our baptism, by asking our godparents or parents, who surely can remember the time of that very crucial event in our life.

Let us today give thanks to God for the gift of baptism, in His willingness to take us as His adopted sons and daughters, and for the love which He has shown us, day after day. Baptism is only the beginning of a new journey in which we must make sure that we listen to the will of God. Baptism is the beginning of the time of grace and yet also struggle in which we must often face divisions and even persecutions for standing up to our faith.

May the Lord bless each and every one of us always, and may He allow us to remember the joy of our baptism, and that we may know what we need to do in our lives now that we have been made God’s own beloved children. Let us love Him more and more, each and every days of our life. Let our life and existence glorify God and let us proclaim the wonders of His love by our own loving actions to our fellow brethren. Amen.

Sunday, 13 January 2019 : Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 3 : 15-16, 21-22

At that time, the people were wondering about John’s identity, “Could he be the Messiah?” Then John answered them, “I baptise you with water, but the One Who is coming will do much more : He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire. As for me, I am not worthy to untie His sandal.”

Now, with all the people who came to be baptised, Jesus, too, was baptised. Then, while He was praying, the heavens opened : the Holy Spirit came down upon Him in the bodily form of a Dove, and a voice from Heaven was heard, “You are My Son, in Whom I am well pleased.”