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Sermon on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord



On the Gospel of Luke 3:15-16, 21-22


When Ahijah Mutallab, the father of Umar Farouk, the 23 year old Nigerian who tried to blow up flight 253 to Detroit, knew that his son developed radical beliefs, became associated with extremist groups and joined the al-Qaeda branch in Yemen, he went to the US embassy in Lagos, Nigeria and alerted authorities that his son could be a real threat to US soil. Ahijah was aware of the fact that though living on the other side of the globe separated by a vast ocean and land, we’re interconnected and linked in a web of human relationships. He was a fine example of someone deeply concerned with the possible devastation such explosives would have cost the lives of innocent human beings. It was pure and simple, a basic sense of inner goodness in action. And whether he believed in God, Christ or not, he exemplified a primary Christian role that is, to renounce evil and shame the guilty even if it’s his own. 

The Baptism of Jesus which marks the beginning of his public ministry works in a similar way but also, it’ s an amazing testimony of a power from within and a clear indication that the source of his strength is beyond him. Jesus’ baptism was highly controversial both to sinners and saints and raises thorny theological question as to its intended purpose. Himself an exception, it is worth nothing that he entered into the ritual of cleansing to sympathize with those who wanted John to turn their lives around. Certainly, getting in line with sinners and being one with them is a difficult thing to do but such is a necessary act of solidarity which later defined his ministry. 

I grew up in a house with religious and traditional parents known to be very protective of their kids, whose ability to secretly solicit information and rely on hearsay, exaggerate things, and easily jump over into conclusion was as effective as any FBI agent, I believe. In high school and college, during monthly home visitations, my mother, was always on the look out for the next person to show up in the doorsteps at any given time. If it happened to be a suspicious looking person, she would usually make an excuse (sorta DND) and later bring to my attention that such and such came in to see me. The reason being is that she didn’t want me to hang out with friends and strangers whose lifestyles could lead her children to utter distraction and disastrous end such as drinking to death, smoking weed, selling drugs and getting hooked on it, gambling a tuition fee, carrying weapons and joining in a violent frat war. I was ambivalent, at first, because I’ve always thought that hanging out with the troubled may be depressingly hard but can be a spiritual work of mercy and a huge opportunity for conversion, who knows. It was quite a try but never came into fruition. Moreover, I figured I wasn’t treated fairly as a mature individual able to choose good and avoid evil and yet, it was for my benefit.  It didn’t take me much time to realize it, though. I give all the credit to my dear parents who never failed to give me a heads up. It was heartfelt. Her unceasing reminder sounded like Forrest Gump, life wasn’t only a box of chocolates, you don’t know what…but also, in every action there’s a corresponding consequence. Thus, to claim responsibility for whatever decisions I’ve made is foremost. I dared not put the blame on anybody else because as my father once told me, you are the arbiter of your life. 

Back to the real thing…

By going in line with those who have been greatly affected with the wear and tear of life, Jesus made an extraordinary statement that he would entirely devote his time for that cause. By joining the line of the sin- sick people in hopes of having a fresh start of the year, he deliberately identified himself with the broken, the damaged and the many individuals who have reached points of despair. 

If you’re fond of reading newspapers and watching TV news, it’s actually easy to figure out what I just said: folks guilty of fraud, bounced check, shop lifting, DUI, infidelity and those who are currently in the rough and tumble of social-political-religious atmosphere, plus the ones previously mentioned. 

His baptism was a powerful witness of a deep belief and profound trust from above, a ministerial service that doesn’t set him apart from others. His was a baptism that put him on fire. The Holy Spirit will take charge, provide words of encouragement and act as the spiritual gatorade that will stamina in the course of a lifetime of relentless search for meaning. 

If we turn our attention for a moment on the account of Jesus’ baptism, according to Luke, it depicts an all-important dimension of baptism. It shows that prayer and the simple utterance of affirmation (“You are my beloved son, with you I am pleased”) are significant aspects of the sacrament. There was no fanfare, no elaborate greetings and words but only the act of prayer and divine declaration as the most valued components. 

Also, in the Gospel, people were filled with expectation and hopes of a leader who can lead them out of the current mess. It’s America in perspective to me: a nation at war against terrorism, an economy on the road to recovery, a record high job loss remaining steady at 10% and a people, in general, in a state of fear and panic especially when it comes to airport security. Although the President said that the buck stops with him, the current ideological divide involves every single human being, not just the Americans and the various government agencies. 

The Baptism of Jesus is a reminder that our lives are deeply enmeshed in a web of shared values, that is, to renounce the power of satan and promote sanctity of life. It is for this reason that we are all baptized into Christ: to be faithful to the mandate of the Gospel, to believe in the teachings of Mother Church and confidently trust in the power of the Holy Spirit as our lifeline. Amen. 

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A Filipino Catholic Priest, born and raised in Virac, Catanduanes, Philippines, ordained for the Diocese of Tucson, AZ, eleven years in ministry and counting, currently assigned as Pastor of St. Christopher Catholic Parish, Marana, AZ.

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