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Catholic Diocese of Umuahia


By Fr. Modestus Mgbaramuko
Sun, 12 Jan 2020

Readings: Is 42: 1-4, 6-7; Acts 10: 34-38; Mt 3: 13-17

Two of the more compelling moments of Jesus’ baptism stands out today before us. The first is the dialogue between John and Jesus. The second regards the open heavens. About whom ought to be baptized by the other? Jesus asks John to “let it be, to fulfill all righteousness.” And, about the heavens opened, the Father’s voice demands our total attention to Jesus.

Do you pay attention to the mystery of your baptism? Matthew gives witness to the opening of the heavens, the descent of the Spirit, and the voice of the Father. Both the divine Sonship of Jesus and the fullness of the father’s love and favor on Jesus are proclaimed to all.  It is not difficult to combine the very revelatory atmosphere of Jesus’ baptism account with what we just heard in prophecy from Isaiah. Likewise, Pater's address and witness in the Second reaffirms the Gospel. In Chritian thinking we know that Isaiah's prophecy of God's "chosen one"  echo Jesus. The Gospel itself deepens the expression: “My Son, the Beloved” and, “With whom I am well-pleased (Mt 3:17).” Let us read today’s Gospel once again.

In Christian worship, particuarly in the context of today's Gospel interpretation, we take pride in what God reveals to us. Thus, in our Christian understanding of Sacred Scripture, we can say, ‘it is not difficult to see God's love.’ We mean what we say. And, this is precisely true, because, beginning with Moses and all the prophets, what we read in the Sacred Scriptures of Israel are only pre-eminently understood in their fulfillment in Jesus Christ (Lk 24:27). Today, Jesus’ baptism gives us another living example of faith, hope and redemption promised us in Jesus. Add today’s revelation of God’s love to the Epiphany of last Sunday.

The fulfillment of God’s righteousness in Jesus’ baptism stands before us. The mystery celebrated in every Christian baptism urges us to own the favor, the amazing grace and the absolute “belovedness” of God upon us and our lives. It is Jesus, from his baptism and into his mission, that we are called and included. Remember: “I the Lord has called you to serve the cause of right. I took you by the hand and formed you.” Eyes that are blind can still be opened today from our kindness to one another. Freedom from the darkness: the darkness of unfaithful marriage, untruthful life, or living as if there is no God can still be removed by good, personal example. Baptized into the name and person of Christ, we all have and remain capable of new identities. We are ‘beloved’ sons/daughters of God if only we can extend God's favors.

The baptism of Jesus to which we are called, and in which we share is bigger, deeper, and beyond the baptism of John. God’s forgiveness was promised in John’s baptism upon those who repented. But God's grace in its wholeness is effectively bestowed upon us who are baptized in Christ, Jesus. At his baptism today, Jesus freely mixes unites himself with us as his brothers and sisters. He never minds about our past, tribe, race or ethnicity. Jesus accepts us, adopts us and gives to us all that the Father gave to Abraham’s biological sons and daughters. In difficult and painful circumstances, Jesus anticipates our own trying times as beleivers. He engages and defeats evil with the discipline of prayer, self-denial, and absolute reliance on God’s will. Thus, Jesus shows us exactly how to respond. His example of resilience serves as the answer he gives to us so that we too can conquer temptations and keep the faith in our time

Our baptism therefore, is not a one-off event, as many “Christians” have tended to make it today. Our baptism demands a continual or life-long orientation into the baptism, death and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus’ temptation did not wait but even followed “immediately as he came out of the water (Mt 3:16).” This, too, is a great lesson for us. No one serious about the meaning of his/her Christian baptism can afford the smugness that all is el dorado. No one celebrating Jesus' baptism and Jesus' resilience at tempting times can ask God, "why me?" Consumerism, vainglory, the attraction to magic for power, are temptations still wreaking the havoc in our time. About these, many Christians so easily forget in whose name they are baptized and, by whose death they are being saved. In short, making Peter's words your own, what is the truth that you have come to realize since your Christian baptism?

Today, this year, or at a time when our inattention to the Gospel and our rejection of the Catechism of our faith is shoving all manners of disgrace upon us: what is your own personal example as a baptized person? Are you among those who feel that the better way to redeem the Church is by ceasing to be Church? Or by being less of the Church of Christ, just because some laity, some religious man, woman or even some of the ordained ministers of the Church, give bad example? Counter them with good example.



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