Homily: The Spirit Is Upon Me

B021Bapt_2_cf03_4c                       Gospel Summary

   Today we celebrate how John the Baptist baptized Jesus in the Jordan River and how, after the baptism, a dove descended from the heavens over him and a Voice proclaimed, “This is my son; listen to Him.”

   John the Baptist offered his disciples a baptismal ritual that essentially prepared. those who received it for the coming of the Messiah. It was a visible, public way of declaring that they were ready and open to accept Him. It said in effect that from now on they were not laying down any preconditions on what kind of Messiah would be acceptable to them. This represented an extraordinary concession, because we humans beings, it seems, are always tempted to tell God how to do things.

   When the Jesus Messiah does come, he brings with him his own powerful baptismal rite, different from John’s.. It includes a water ritual similar to John’s but it was far superior to the baptism of John because it conferred the Holy Spirit on the one baptized. This is the same Spirit that was sent from heaven at Jesus’ baptism and which signaled the dawn of a new age.

   This Spirit is said to have appeared as a dove over Jesus because the dove is God’s powerful symbol in the Old Testament of Creation and Peace.. This is the same Spirit that hovered over the deep to call being out of nothingness and that appeared to Noah as a dove thus signaling the advent of a new world after the Great Flood.

   This Spirit brings to all who are baptized in the name of Jesus a share in those same powers of Creativity and peacemaking — the kind of power that enabled Jesus to announce the new creation of God’s kingdom and to live out a ministry of healing and peace-making in Galilee. It is this creative Spirit also that empowers us who are baptized to follow Jesus in loving service, self-sacrifice and final victory.

                 Life Implications

   You know, it’s very difficult for us to adequately appreciate the baptism that most of us received as infants long ago . In fact, I think that for most of our mothers, their greatest prayer that day was that we would sleep through our baptism without crying. So it is up to us ourselves discover just how important and how powerful this sacrament should be in our lives.

   The most important part of the baptismal rite is the faith commitment that we bring to it. Our sponsors may have made this promise for us many years ago, and we got to renew those promises in our own name at our Confirmation, but we must eventually claim that commitment, something that usually happens only at a much later date.

   In the early church, they were all adults who were baptized. The book of Acts tells us they heard the word of Jesus or the early apostles, asked for and received baptism and, presumably, then were instructed in the Faith. A few hundred years later, those who accepted Christ were instructed during Lent and then, baptized at the Easter vigil. Now we are baptized as infants, instructed as children in catholic school or CCD, and then hopefully, some day as adults, become committed.

   So, first it was commitment, then baptism and then instruction; later, commitment, instruction, then baptism, and now: baptism as infants, instruction, then — we hope — commitment. So, on any given Sunday, we are preaching to a church, half of whom, may or may not yet be committed to accepting and following the Way of Jesus. Tell me, do you know, just where you are on that continuum?

   And that means nothing less than a deeply personal decision to follow Christ by living in a truly unselfish manner. It also means renouncing the alluring but false suggestion of the world and we say, of Satan, that the way to happiness is by indulging ourselves and our selfish desires.

   Living unselfishly is very difficult. We could never manage it by our own limited resources. But the powerful, creative Spirit who comes to us in baptism, is ready and willing to help us truly be sensitive to the needs of others and truly be generous in our response to those needs. The Spirit helps us be a Gift in the lives of others and it brings us also a deep sense of happiness and satisfaction. That is what it means that the Baptized experience ultimate victory with our Risen Lord.

   And it means we become instruments of Creativity and Peace. supremely aware of how the Kingdom has not yet come to completion, especially of any activities that on a great scale bring destruction of our planet, or that destroy peace through hatred or war or human exploitation. I think that today, it means to reevaluate our attitudes toward race and people of other races. It cries out to us to find ways to bring the power of God’s Spirit through Jesus to overturn those diabolic powers of hatred and discrimination and so to bring healing and compassion and renewal to our nation in these issues..

   Then we, too, may some day hear that Voice from heaven: “This, too, is my beloved son or daughter; in them I am very well pleased.   (Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B.)

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