Sunday, January 7, 2018

Feast of The Baptism of our Lord : January 7, 2018

Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY
Br. Josép R. Martínez-Cubero, OHC
The Feast Baptism of our Lord.- Sunday, January 7, 2018

To hear the sermon in its fullness click here.

Today we celebrate the feast of the Baptism of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and I can hear the challenger thirteen-year-old me asking the question to Padre Heraclio or Sor Davida: “Wait, why did Jesus have to be baptized? Isn’t He the Son of God?” Here at Holy Cross, our Magnificat and Benedictus antiphon for this feast goes like this: “Christ is baptized and the world is made holy; consecrated by water and the Holy Spirit.” 

In his addresses at the church in Jerusalem around the year 350, St. Cyril describes baptism this way: “Baptism, whether ancient or modern, is the hinge upon which Christian identity turns. Jesus sanctified baptism when he himself was baptized… He was baptized in order that he might impart grace and dignity to those who receive the sacrament.”

The baptism of Jesus is one of the few events of his life recorded in all four canonical Gospels. The Gospel according to Matthew tells us that Jesus wants to “fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). But perhaps more importantly, is that this account of Jesus’ baptism by John in the Jordan is the first public revelation and the perfect embodiment of the triune God. The Father’s pleasure in the Son and the descending of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus is a beautiful image of the Trinitarian nature of God, the ultimate reality that is about relationship, indwelling, and interrelatedness. And the Good News of Jesus is that we are invited into that fellowship of eternal loving, and self-outpouring, and to be in holy union with that source of life that is beyond any limit we can imagine, through the life of Jesus Christ.

The practice of baptizing is mentioned directly or indirectly in most of the New Testament books. The experience of baptism was not merely an act of religious initiation, but rather, the explicit way in which a believer became related to Christ, and through Christ to God. So, the Feast of the Baptism of Christ is the feast of our baptism, too.  To be baptized is to be “in Christ,” to be members of his body, the church, and thus to share a common way of life. St. Thomas Aquinas called baptism “the door of the sacraments” because it integrated the diverse human reality into a single body, thus establishing the fundamental ground plan of unity in faith.

Like with all other sacraments, baptism presumes faith. Without faith, it becomes an external ritual without internal meaning. Faith is God’s gift to those who recognize and trust this Incarnation-presence of God and who have been incorporated into this self-disclosure of God in Christ. In his essay The Structure of Christian Community, The Rev. Dr. Louis Weil writes: “Faith is given sacramental articulation through incorporation in baptism, and this unity is in turn signified and deepened through the common Eucharistic meal. Without faith, the sacraments are like a body without breath or blood.”

In baptism, we are charged with following and imitating Jesus in ultimate self-sacrifice for the salvation of the world. We are to participate in the identity of Jesus- prophet, priest, and servant- and in his mission of establishing the Reign of God in this world, and to persevere in resisting the Kingdom of Satan, that is, the evil caused by human choice, both individual and societal, personal and systemic. This is the mission to which we are called at baptism when we reaffirm our renunciation of evil. We renounce Satan and all his works. That is, we disaffiliate from the reality construction of the Evil One, and become members of Christ’s body.

This resistance against evil cannot be done through “flight from the world”, by avoiding, ignoring, or not wanting to have anything to do with the values, and behaviors of the world, and living the Christian life as purely as possible within the ecclesial community or “away from it all”. It cannot be achieved entirely by picking up the pieces of the destructive work of evil, caring for the oppressed, the sick, the orphaned, the imprisoned, the homeless. Yes, caring for these victims of the world is important, and good work. These approaches can be Gospel-motivated, and they are blessed by Jesus. They are well-intentioned, and even often effective. But they address the effects of evil rather than its roots, and express a kind of acceptance that, “that’s the way things are”. So we offer as much help as we can to the victims of evil because, well “that’s what good Christians do”, as we make our way, we think, to heaven. Doing good in the world is not Christian ministry. It is a directive for all human beings and does not have to flow from any particular faith commitment. You do not have to be a Christian to be a good human being.

Jesus did not flee the world. And his miracles of healing, feeding, exercising, and so forth, were not just palliative care for those fortunate enough to come into contact with him. Jesus really intended to establish the Reign of God here on earth. As baptized Christians we are called to continue the mission and ministry of Jesus, to subvert the Kingdom of Satan and to foster the Reign of God. This demands that we place the good of others before our own, even to the point of giving our own life completely, in love, even to the point of death. It requires humility, obedience, surrender, and the cross. As Jesus did, we die but are also raised to new life.

In her book, Buying the Field, Sister Sandra Schneiders writes: “Jesus confronted every kind of death, not just natural mortality but the death caused by human evil. He healed the death of the senses in blindness and deafness; the death of the body in paralysis and atrophy and fever; social death by exclusion and marginalization because of gender or race or social status; economic death by poverty and debt; and especially religious and spiritual death by exclusion from worship because of sin or impurity. Jesus said, ‘God does not will or cause any of this and God can and will handle all of it. You are safe no matter what happens to you because God counts every hair of your head and can supply every need, and remedy every ill.’”

In baptism, we renounce all evil desires that draw us from the love of God. And, so, wherever we may go, and whatever we may do or have done to us, yet God continues to love us, accept us, and hold on to us. We are “marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit”. (Ephesians 1:14). We are beloved children of God. With us, God is well pleased. Let us go forth and proclaim this Good News: “You are a beloved child of God. With you, God is well pleased.” And let’s see what happens. ~ ¡Que así sea! Amen.


  • Esther de Waal, Seeking Life: The Baptismal Invitation of the Rule of St. Benedict (Liturgical Press, 2009)
  • Jeffrey Lee, Opening the Prayer Book (Cowley Publications, 1999)
  • Charles P. Price and Louis Weil, Liturgy for Living (Morehouse Publishing, Revised Edition, 2000)
  • Arthur A. Vogel, editor, Theology in Anglicanism (Morehouse-Barlow, 1984)
  • Sandra Schneiders, IHM, Buying the Field: Catholic Religious Life in Mission to the World (Paulist Press, 2013)

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