Yesterday the Church celebrated the liturgical culmination of the Christmas season by marking the occasion of the Baptism of the Lord in the Jordan River by John the Baptist. In a sermon on this occasion, St. Gregory of Nanzianzus wrote, “The Baptist protests; Jesus insists. Then John says: I ought to be baptized by you. He is the lamp in the presence of the sun, the voice in the presence of the Word, the friend in the presence of the Bridegroom, the greatest of all born of woman in the presence of the firstborn of all creation…”
At the first moment of creation, Genesis tells us that in the beginning was God, whose spirit hovered over the waters of the formless void and by this action everything was created. The prologue of John’s Gospel tells us that in the beginning the Word of God “was with God and was God” and it was this Word through Whom everything was made.
In the Baptism of Jesus, the Spirit and the Word again go the water, and the moment of has come wherein God begins to fulfill his promise to create a new heaven and a new earth; the redemption of the whole cosmos from the fear and power of sin and death now has its beginning in earnest.
Does the water make Jesus holy? No. Jesus makes the water, a creature, holy and suitable to be the means of sanctification for the rest of creation.
In baptism, we are freed from original sin, become temples of the Holy Spirit, members of the Body of Christ, heirs to the Kingdom of Heaven, and adopted sons and daughters of God.
As his sons and daughters, the Father makes us 4 promises in baptism: he promises to love us always and no matter what; to forgive us, always and no matter what; never to abandon us, never and no matter what; and the whenever, whyever, how ever, wherever the time comes, there will be a place for us in his house.
All this knowledge amounts to a ticket to freedom. How much of the trouble we get into is the result to assuage a fear or lie which stems from the belief that we are unloved, unforgiven, alone, and doomed?
Remember, “When the night was in the midst of its course, all things being at peace, the Word leapt from the royal throne into the doomed land.” (Wisdom 18:14)
Into our gloom and doom, the Lord freely enters, and gives us a new hope, a new way of seeing, a new joy in the midst of his work to bring about a new creation.
You can listen to my whole homily here:
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