You are my beloved - Baptism of the Lord (C)

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Home > Archbishop > Homilies > You are my beloved - Baptism of the Lord (C)

We have all been baptised. For most of us it happened in infancy. By Baptism we have become Catholics. Baptism has established our religious identity. We belong to the Catholic Church and participate in the faith and life of the Church.

However there is a much deeper significance to our baptism which this feast reveals to us. The Gospel account of the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan reveals the more profound meaning to the Sacrament of Baptism. Indeed it is St John the Baptist who witnesses to the difference between his baptism and the baptism that Jesus will provide.

St John the Baptist is the first to admit that his baptism has a largely symbolic meaning. It was intended as an action to express the intention of abandoning a sinful life and turning back to God. Here the action has no power in itself, but simply depends of the sincerity of the person involved. It is significant, certainly, but any efficacy from the action depends of the person’s willingness to live a new life oriented towards God.

St John the Baptist knows that his is a shadow compared with the reality that is about to be introduced. As he says, “I baptise you with water”, but there is one coming who “will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire”. This baptism will infuse the person with the presence of the Holy Spirit and will in fact light a fire in the heart of the new Christian. This baptism will be transformative, effective and powerful.

This new baptism was then revealed as Jesus allowed himself to be baptised by John. After the baptism, St Luke tells us, while Jesus was at prayer, the Holy Spirit descended on him and a voice from heaven said, “You are my Son, the Beloved: my favour rests on you”.

What happened to Jesus reveals what happens to us in our baptism.

Christian Baptism is not only an expression of a personal act of faith but a moment when God visits us and transforms us by an outpouring of the Grace of the Holy Spirit. In our baptism God has breathed his own divine life into us. We now have a spiritual presence and power at work in us. This should not be underestimated, both in its significance and its potential.

The beloved disciple, St John, author of the fourth Gospel and several letters, speaks of the Christian as being “begotten by God’, or to use a phrase we hear referred to by many evangelical Christians, “born again”. St John insists that we must be “born of the Spirit”. As he says, “what is born of the flesh is flesh, what is born of the Spirit is spirit”.

In Baptism we are truly born again of the Spirit. God’s own life has been breathed into us. We live now spiritually. Our human soul now has come alive through the presence of the Holy Spirit.

The other element of the Gospel account of the Baptism of Jesus that we need to comment upon is that of the voice of the Father: “This is my Son, the Beloved.” One senses the voice full of fatherly pride and love. This is my son. He is my beloved, my favour rests on him. My faithful and obedient son is doing this – becoming man, entering in humility among creation in order to redeem and restore creation to what it should be. And he will do even more – he will offer himself as a perfect act of atonement. But for now he will reveal the merciful heart of God for humanity.

For Christ himself there must have been a wonderful moment of union with his Father and the Holy Spirit. At this moment the Holy Trinity revealed its true nature bound in a profound unity grounded in love. In this account for the first time in the Sacred Scriptures all three persons of the Blessed Trinity are manifest – the Father in his words, the Son in his humanity and the Spirit hovering over him.

And this reveals to us that by virtue of our baptism we are drawn into the life of the Blessed Trinity. We become sons and daughters of God, and the favour of God rests on us.

This is our dignity, our immense privilege, in being baptised as Christians.

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Today in this Mass one son of God Paschal Okpon offers himself to his Father in heaven to become a priest. As Archbishop I have been advised by the seminary that Paschal is suitable to be accepted as a candidate for Holy Orders. This is an affirmation by the Church that Paschal has been found worthy to be advanced towards the priesthood.

Today as I accept him as a candidate for ordination for the Archdiocese of Hobart, I am preparing the way for Pascal to be ordained as a deacon at the end of this year.

It is with great joy then that I call him forth.

 

Archbishop Julian Porteous
Sunday, 10 January 2016