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Homilies :: Latin Rite
Monday of the First Week in Ordinary Time Download This Homily

The Baptism of the Lord

 

Is 55: 1-11 or 1 Jn 5: 1-9

Is 12: 2-3. 4bcd. 5-6 (3)/

Gospel MK 1:7-11


This is what John the Baptist proclaimed: "One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."


It happened in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John. On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased."

 

BAPTISM OF THE LORD


On this feast of the baptism of Jesus let us reflect on baptism. Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, one of the maharishis the modern India has given birth, once stated, “He is born in vain, who having attained the human birth, so difficult to get, does not attempt to realize God in this very life.” Though the headcount of human beings has hit an all time high over 7.2 billion and some experts are much worried about the population explosion; if we compare our number with other living organisms we can see that our number is still insignificant. A simple microscope will reveal that in a single drop of water there live millions of microorganisms. It is said that even under our fingernails there live many million microbes. We could have been born as the progeny of any such microorganisms, insects, birds, plants or animals but by sheer fortune thanks to the grace of God we were born as children of human beings. I hope that all of you will agree that it is wonderful to belong to the human family. Though it is an exceptional privilege to be born as children of human beings we have another potential, a real possibility to be reborn and live as children of God! Baptism is all about that potential to be born as children of God.

 

 

 

Our birth as children of human beings was not voluntary, a result of our personal choice. In spite of the dazzling advancements in the field of medical science still we are falling short of manufacturing a human child of our choice. The medical intervention and all the techniques of IVF do nothing more than assisting the great nature’s course. However, when it comes to be born as a child of God, it is absolutely voluntary; it fully depends on our personal choice. As St Augustine once said, “God who made you without your participation will not save you without your participation.” Similarly, we who are born as the children of human beings without our personal involvement cannot be born as children of God without our personal involvement.

 

 

 

We know that nature is pre-programmed and is driven by instincts. Not only other living organisms but even human beings are controlled and driven by instincts. All natural and normal human need can be classified under three basic instincts, namely, survival, possession, and recognition. Unfortunately, those who are driven by these instincts often live under the illusion that they are great thinkers, masters of their own destiny and very much spiritual. They do not realize that they are merely slaves of their basic instincts of survival, possession and recognition. Even among pious, religious people we find slaves of these basic instincts of survival, possession and recognition because it is not that easy to master them. Most people are born into the world of instincts, and they flourish in their attempt to satisfy their instincts and die while they are still struggling to satisfy their basic needs. This is true not only in the secular field but also in the religious field. As Kazantzakis has written, often “Their virtues are the daughters of fear and sons of greed.” It is in this respect the words of Ramakrishna continue to challenge us, “He is born in vain, who having attained the human birth, so difficult to get, does not attempt to realize God in this very life.”

 

 

 

There is a chance that our sacrament of baptism can turn out to be a barren rite or a futile ritual. It can get degenerated into a social celebration rather than a life-giving ceremony. Originally baptism was introduced by John the Baptist as a symbolic spiritual cleansing ceremony – an act of repentance on the old life and a conversion towards a new life, a death to the old and a rebirth into a new life. It is from this perspective that John tried to dissuade Jesus from getting baptized since he was fully aware of the uprightness of Jesus. But Jesus in turn elevated baptism into a new domain and gave a new meaning to it. Baptism is no more about sin, death, repentance and conversion but about grace, life, light, joy and a personal option to live as a child of God. If the choice is not voluntary, if the human child fails to live the life of a divine child, baptism will remain a meaningless, lifeless ritual. Soon after his baptism Jesus proved to the world that he was not merely a human child enslaved by the three basic instincts, but a free child of God by facing head-on with those primary drives. Through successfully overcoming the three temptations – survival, possession and recognition (concupiscence of flesh, world and devil), Jesus proved to the world that the “son of man” is also the “son of God”, that he is not a slave of nature but the master of nature.

 

 

 

In India the Brahmins call themselves dvijas or twice born, and wear a sacred thread to remind themselves of their second birth. Some Christian denominations identify themselves as “Born again Christians”. They aggressively promote themselves by going around asking people, “Are you born again?” However, the lives of these so-called dvijas often fail to prove that they are truly “born again”. Jesus would compare such people to “whitewashed tombs”. As Kazantzakis said they still continue to be “daughters of fear and sons of greed”. The signs and symbols they proudly show off and the rites and rituals they perform give them a false sense of security and elevate them into a fool’s paradise. They live a hollow, artificial, illusory life in a world of make-believe.

 

 

If we perform the rites and rituals without imbibing their real spirit they can become the greatest blocks on our way to gain the freedom of the children of God. That may be the reason why St Paul reminds us, “... for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2Cor 3:6). Baptism, in fact, should become a conscious choice by a human child to live as a divine child, to be free from fear and greed, no more a slave of one’s basic instincts. Though we are born as children of human beings our vocation is to live as children of God. It entirely depends on our personal choice. Only if that happens we are the followers of Christ, baptized in the Spirit of Jesus. Let us remember once again the wise and challenging words of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, “He is born in vain, who having attained the human birth, so difficult to get, does not attempt to realize God in this very life.”

 

Dr Kurian Perumpallikunnel CMI


Homilies Navchetana Apps, the first of its kind is produced and published by Navchetana Communications, Bhopal, India to assist the clergy to preach the World of God and also as a handy spiritual resource for the people of God to reflect on the daily spiritual passages at their convenience. You can download this on your Android phone from Google play and you can see the Gospel reflections of the whole year. The size of this app is just 2.5 MB. We welcome your suggestions and contributions to server you better.

May God Bless you

Fr. James M L CMI

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Homilies Navchetana is an initiative of Navchetana Communications, Bhopal, India. We have been sending the Sunday and daily homilies last four years. We are grateful to you for your cooperation and encouraging comments. Navchetana is committed to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ through modern media and performing arts. Through our Web TV, audio and video productions and stage programmes we take the Gospel message to the ends of the earth. Make a donation and be a part of this noble mission.


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