THE END IS THE BEGINNING: A HOMILY ON THE BAPTISM OF THE LORD
According to the tradition of the Church, today marks the end of the Christmas season, but it also marks the beginning of the ordinary time. We end one reason today and we begin a new season.
BETWEEN THE BOOKS
Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord.A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings, lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!” Behold, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. He will feed his flock like a shepherd, he will gather the lambs in his arms, he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young: The book of the prophet Isaiah has 66 chapters, which can be divided either in three or in two. If it is divided in two,, then the first part will be from chapter 1 to chapter 39, which is called the book of judgement. It is so-called because it contains warnings, judgements and condemnations of the people’s way of life which would eventually lead to exile. Chapter 40 to chapter 66 is called the book of consolation because it was written at the time when the people were already in exile, to console and comfort them and to give them the hope of restoration.
Our first reading is from Isaiah 40, which is the end of the book of judgement but actually the beginning of the book of consolation.
HIDDEN AND PUBLIC LIFE OF JESUS
At that time: As the people were in expectation, and all men questioned in their hearts concerning John, whether perhaps he were the Christ, John answered them all, “I baptise you with water; but he who is mightier than I is coming, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie; he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”Now when all the people were baptised, and when Jesus also had been baptised and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form, as a dove, and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”: Jesus lived in the world for about 34 years. What is surprising to many is that He spent a very short time in ministry. For 30 years He was at home with his parent. The only exception to this is His three days ministry in the Jerusalem temple, when he got missing at the age of 12. After that he remained at home until He is baptised. His years at home we call his hidden life while His years in ministry we call His public life. His baptism marks the end of His hidden life, as well at the beginning of His public life and ministry.
FROM LAW TO GRACE
Beloved: For the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all men, training us to renounce irreligion and worldly passions, and to live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world, awaiting our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all iniquity and to purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.
But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit, which he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Saviour, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life.fy for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds: Today, we celebrate the end of the Christmas season, which is the beginning of the ordinary time. Today, we celebrate the end of Jesus’ hidden life and the beginning of His public ministry. Today, the book of Isaiah moves from judgement to consolation. There we are told that our iniquities are pardoned. Each of us, when we are baptised move from one form of life to another. We move from a life of sin to a life of grace.
Baptism is therefore a defining moment in the life of a Christian. The life before baptism is significantly different from the life after baptism. It is through baptism that we qualify to be called children f God. This is why baptism is necessary for our salvation.