IDENTIFYING WITH THE CLEANSING WATER: HOMILY FOR THE BAPTISM OF THE LORD. Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem PhD.

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Advertisement is a very big industry that turns out billions of dollars every year. It simply describes how business ventures make their products and services known to prospective clients and keep their enthusiasm alive. Coca-Cola for instance spent about $2.5 billion in 2006 on advertisement; a large chunk of from its annual income. For effective advertisement, advertisers are prone to making use of celebrities. The reason is obvious; for instance when Michael Jackson advertised for Pepsi the company recorded a very high annual return because it simply told the world that Michael Jackson prefers Pepsi; so his fans joined him.

By entering the Jordan River to be baptized, John the Baptist appeared to have had a celebrity (Jesus Christ) coming to advertise his “product” (baptism) in the Jordan. Beyond advertisement Jesus Christ our Lord came to John for baptism, which was the baptism of repentance, to clearly show the importance of baptism not only that of John but also the sacrament of baptism which was prefigured in that of John in the Jordan River.

Indeed from the baptism of Jesus Christ has a lot teach and a lot to learn. It is basically a continuation of the Epiphany of the Lord. If we understand Epiphany as God’s manifestation of himself through our Lord Jesus Christ, this actually took place on the day our Lord was baptized by John. From the gospel account of today we are told that as soon as Jesus stepped out of the water after baptism, the heavens opened and the Spirit on God descended on him like a dove and a voice was heard saying: “This is my beloved son with whom I am well pleased”. Here God manifested himself in his Trinitarian dimension within the context of the Baptism of Jesus Christ. We also learn here a kind of divine confirmation of the sacrament of baptism; an assurance that God will always open the gates of heaven for all those who receive this sacrament and live according to its demands. It is on this account that St. Peter (1 Pet.3:21) would say that baptism now saves us not just by the washing away of dirt from the flesh but an appeal to God for a good conscience through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

From the above passage from the letter of St. Peter, we have a clearer understanding of the Church’s position that baptism cleanses us from original sin makes of Christians (those who believe in the death and resurrection of Christ), children of God and members of the Church. It further helps us as St. Peter also indicated, to form a good and active conscience which alerts us whenever we are about to go astray or step into sin. From all these, we understand that without baptism we have no Christ in us because it is the sacrament at initiates us into the Christian fold.

So far we have seen that our Lord Jesus Christ approached John to be baptized not because he needed to repent from any sin as he was sinless. Rather by stepping into the Jordan to be baptized he identified with our fallen state or as St. Paul would put it, God made him who had no sin to become sin for us so that through him we can become righteous (2 Cor.5:21). Having seen the entire picture of the baptism of Christ by John and our own baptism what remain is the question as to how we have been able to function with the baptism we have received as Christians whether as infants or as adults.

Having being cleansed of the old nature of sin in us by the water of baptism how do we identify with this cleansing water? It is basically not enough to be baptized; there should an on-going transforming touch of the baptism we have received. By virtue of our baptism we should be reminded often of the need for us to dissociate ourselves from sin. We are reminded that our baptism saved us from being eternally severed from God. Considering the saving power of baptism we should distance ourselves from the attractions to sin. The Church is thus wise enough to call upon all the baptized during the Easter Vigil ceremony and indeed during every baptism ceremony to renew the vows of our own baptism to renounce sin, the devil, his works and promises.

The celebration today calls to mind our own baptism. It reminds us of the grace we received through the waters of baptism and it also challenges us to move ahead to identify with the water of baptism by actively disconnecting ourselves from sin, by adhering to the continual call for repentance. Let us also keep in mind that it is not all about being baptized; there is more to that. We are called upon to reflect the life of those who have received the sacrament of baptism; those who have the mark and seal of Jesus Christ in their lives.

There is also a call on those who are not yet baptized to make haste and receive their cleansing. Parents and caregivers are called upon to have their children and wards baptized. Baptism should be a facility open to all who desire it and those who are in charge of dispensing this sacrament should see it a great spiritual work as it brings people into the Christian fold. May our lives be renewed more with the celebration of the baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Do have a wonderful Sunday and remain specially blessed.

Fr. Bonnie.

5 Comments on “IDENTIFYING WITH THE CLEANSING WATER: HOMILY FOR THE BAPTISM OF THE LORD. Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem PhD.

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