by Fr. Tommy Lane
We celebrated the Epiphany of Jesus last Sunday. When we think of Epiphany we think of the wise men visiting the baby Jesus in Bethlehem but “Epiphany” means “revelation” so when we celebrated the Epiphany of Jesus we celebrated Jesus being revealed and shown to the world.
At Epiphany last weekend we especially remembered Jesus revealed as the light of all nations since the wise men (who were Gentiles and not Jews) came from far away.
Today we celebrate another epiphany of Jesus which occurred at his baptism when his heavenly Father spoke and said, “This is my Beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.” (Matt 3:17)
After Jesus’ baptism the next epiphany or revelation of Jesus takes place at the wedding at Cana where St. John the Evangelist tells us Jesus’ miracle let his glory be seen and his disciples believed in him (John 2:11).
The Holy Spirit descending on Jesus at his baptism was an anointing. Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit. In the second reading today Peter described Jesus’ baptism as an Anointing by God with the Holy Spirit and power (Acts 10:38). The word “Christ” is a Greek word and means “Anointed” and the word “Messiah” is a Hebrew word which also means “Anointed.” Because Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit at his baptism he is Christ and Messiah. In the Old Testament the high priest was anointed as he took up office. The king was anointed on the day of his coronation and regarded as adopted by God as his son on the day of his coronation. But Jesus is not just adopted as God’s son when he was baptized; he is God’s Son, is God incarnate, God in the flesh. While the servant in the first reading (Isa 42:1-7) could be understood in a number of different ways we could understand the servant as a prophecy of Jesus anointed by the Spirit to open the eyes of the blind and free captives. Part of the preface to the Eucharistic prayer today puts it like this:
Spirit was seen as a dove,
revealing Jesus as your servant,
and anointing him with joy as the Christ,
sent to bring to the poor
the good news of salvation.
The baptism John the Baptist administered in the river Jordan was a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus was sinless so why did he come to John to be baptized? We see that John the Baptist was obviously uneasy as he said, “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?” (Matt 3:14) Jesus wanted to be baptized even though he didn’t need baptism because it would be through baptism that everyone would become followers of Jesus. Everything we do in the Church we do because it comes from Jesus. The seven sacraments come from Jesus.
Jesus was baptized in the river Jordan and taught Nicodemus about the importance of being born from above (John 3). Jesus said what is born of the flesh is flesh and what is born of the spirit is spirit (John 3:6). Before Jesus ascended into heaven he commanded the apostles to baptize in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit (Matt 28:19). St. Thomas Aquinas says we could expect that Jesus would have baptized his apostles also (Summa III Q38 A6). This would make sense because baptism is the first of the sacraments and we would expect them to have received baptism before they were ordained priests during the Last Supper.
We receive the Sacrament of Confirmation because it confirms and completes the grace of the Holy Spirit we received at baptism (just as Pentecost follows Easter). Christ was full of the Spirit and before his Ascension promised the apostles an outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and then they would be his disciples (Acts 1:8). We see in the early Church that the apostles needed to lay hands on those who had been baptized earlier (Acts 8:14-17).
We celebrate the Eucharist because Jesus gave us the gift of his Body and Blood during the Last Supper and asked us to repeat the celebration, “do this in memory of me” (Luke 22:19). On the road to Emmaus the two disciples listened to Jesus explain the Scriptures and then they recognized him at the breaking of the bread which is what happens every time we come to Mass (Luke 24:13-35).
We ask to have our sins forgiven in the Sacrament of Reconciliation because on many occasions in the Gospels we see Jesus forgiving sins and he breathed on the apostles and said to them, “Whose sins you forgive they are forgiven and whose sins you retain they are retained.” (John 20:22-23)
When we are seriously ill we ask for the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick because in the Gospels we see that Jesus healed many sick people. When Jesus sent out the apostles on mission they anointed many sick people with oil and cured them (Mark 6:13).
The love of a man and woman for each other is made holy in the Sacrament of Marriage. Jesus blessed a wedding at Cana with his presence (2:1-11). The letter to the Ephesians says the love between husband and wife is a mirror and reflection of the love of God for us (Eph 5:32).
Men are ordained priests because Jesus, the high priest of the New Covenant, shares his priesthood with men whom he now calls. Jesus first did this during the Last Supper as he prayed to his Father to consecrate the apostles in Spirit and Truth (John 17:17-19).
What a gift and grace the Church is to us. It offers us what Jesus himself offered two millennia ago. Jesus didn’t need to be baptized in the Jordan by John the Baptist but since the sacraments and everything we do in the Church come from Jesus, and it would be through baptism that we would become followers of Jesus, Jesus desired to be baptized also. As we celebrate the baptism of Jesus it reminds us that everything we have and do in the Church comes from Jesus. The Church is the Bride of Christ, and where you have Christ’s Bride, there you also have Christ.
Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2013
More homilies for the Baptism of Jesus
Related Homilies: Baptism Changes the Quality of Our Souls Forever 2011