Sunday, January 13, 2008

Baptism of the Lord - homily

I would like to make two announcements to start. The first is that there is an insert in your bulletin which is a letter on marriage from the Maryland Catholic Bishops. The bishops are encouraging us to get involved with some important legislation that the Maryland General Assembly is considering which would allow same-sex marriage or civil unions in this state. The legislation would not protect the sacred institution of marriage; rather, it would radically change it. The bishops have given a website ( at the end of the letter. We should all come to the defense of marriage which is the oldest and most important institution in the world.

The second announcement is that there will be a retreat for men who are in their twenties, thirties, and forties and considering a call to the priesthood from February 1-3. If you or someone you know might be interested in this retreat, please see me after Mass or email me. This week is National Vocations Awareness Week; please continue to pray for vocations, especially from St. Andrew’s.

We have an awesome scene in today’s Gospel with the Baptism of the Lord. Jesus is baptized by John in the Jordan. Many people ask why Jesus was baptized; he didn’t need to be cleansed in any way. His baptism is not for him but for us; it’s an example for us. Moreover, the baptism of the Lord is different from all the Jewish baptism before his. We see and hear things from this scene that show us that his baptism and all Christian baptisms are new; everything is new in Christ, and Christ makes all things new.

First, the Spirit descended upon Jesus “like a dove”. This is new. Jesus was anointed with the Spirit, as the second reading from Acts tells us. It is the Spirit that is present at major points in Jesus’ life, leading Him. Second, “the heavens were opened”. This is the first time the heavens were opened since they were closed at the Fall of Man with Adam and Eve. The third new thing we hear about is “a voice came from the heavens, saying, ‘This is my beloved Son’”. This is the first time a voice came from heaven saying, ‘this is my Son”. God has a son and his name is Jesus! His baptism is new; all Christian baptisms are new and have the same elements as his baptism. At our baptisms, it was like there was a voice coming from Heaven saying, “this is my beloved son…this is my beloved daughter”.

All things are made new in Christ. We have a new covenant with God in Christ. Christ is the new covenant. As the first reading from Isaiah tells us, God’s servant will be the “covenant of the people”. Christ is that servant. God has given us seven ways – the seven sacraments - to live in the new covenant. Whenever we receive any of the seven sacraments, we participate in the new covenant with God. Baptism in Christ is entry into the new covenant. The baptized person is literally a “new creation”. This newness is most especially true with Baptism, but it is also true that whenever we participate in the sacrament of Reconciliation, we are made “new creations”, new persons. To live out the new covenant in Christ is to be continually renewed.

We come to drink the blood of the new covenant with the Eucharist. We come to be renewed by this sacrament. And, we have the same Trinitarian formula as with the scene of the Baptism of the Lord. The Eucharist is an offering to the Father, in the Son, and through the Spirit. May each one of us live a Trinitarian life centered on the Eucharist. May our lives be offerings to the Father, in the Son, and through the Spirit.


At 10:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fr. Greg often talks about “living a life centered on the Eucharist.” I often thought, why not say “live a life centered on Christ?” I thought- doesn’t that mean the same thing? He said it again this morning and, maybe because it was in the context of speaking about calls to vocations at the same time, something clicked. Living a life centered in Christ is what I think we all, as Christians, are called to. Living a life centered on the Eucharist is what we, as Catholics, are about (or should be). It’s kind of like the summit in the way of thinking about our relationship with Christ. The Eucharist makes us one in body with Christ, and our lives should be about what comes from that. That is the very thing that will make our lives Christ-centered. It’s a very cool partnership.

At 2:58 PM, Blogger fran said...

This is what I love about the blogposts and comments, the people who write them, the Catholic faith...
Last week we celebrated the Feast of the Epiphany. The homily touched on if/when we 'get it, about Christ.' Fr Greg often speaks of his own personal epiphany, when his beloved Msgr. Wells opened his eyes to Jesus in the Eucharist.
We have all probably had that one pivotal moment when something really hit us regarding our faith; that one singular moment or epiphany that profoundly changed something in us. Maybe it is the same for those of other faiths, I don't know. What I love is that, for me, faith is comprised of many epiphanies; moments when you go "wow!" "really?" or "I never thought about it like that before."
Thanks for sharing, anon, it is a very cool partnership, indeed!

At 10:12 AM, Anonymous HSPrincess said...

I have a question:
I am a girl who likes to wear hats alot. Usually there's someone who gives me a hard time about keeping a hat on when we pray. Are women supposed to take off their hats when they pray, like men? Or is it alright if we keep them on.

At 1:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems that the fact the Jesus was baptized is a sign of how much he identified with us. Even though he was without sin, he was fully human and therefore was tempted in the same ways that we are.

At 12:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


See if 1 Corinthians Chapter 11-vs 3-17 offers you an answer to your question.

At 1:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why is the church so upset by what lawmakers might do to civil law? If Maryland starts to allow civil unions or even gay marriage (much less likely though) the law would not require the church to start marrying two men or two women. No law could ever be passed that would do that. And since the church doesn't recognize marriages not performed by the church itself, why is anyone worried about what an unrecognized Justice of the Peace does?

At 11:58 AM, Anonymous mindy said...

Giving legitimacy to civil unions undermines what we believe about marriage as a sacred union, and for those concerned with the common good (among whom should be first and foremost our legislators), they should make their views known. Furthermore, in the past there has been pressure placed on the church to comply with enacted laws although they conflict with the church’s beliefs. In other states, Catholic health care facilities have been pressured to give birth control and abortion information, and adoption agencies have been pressured to place children with gay adoptive parents- all things strongly opposed by the church. In addition, in my opinion, when one does not stand up and say, “I oppose this,” it’s as if you are saying. “This is okay.” When one segment of the culture is changed, the culture in its entirety is changed. I don’t think it’s hard to see the negative result of complacency and permissiveness in our world.

At 3:00 PM, Anonymous Maryann said...

On the baptism of Jesus-

Yes, he identifies with us- what an awesome task he left behind. I find myself falling short on a daily basis. What a goal to strive for.


Unconditional Love
A response to: On Christ's Baptism

One additional point comes to mind when Jesus is baptized and God speaks these words from heaven: "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17). The love that God gives is unconditional. God is pleased just to behold Jesus, whose ministry and service had not yet begun.

At that point in time Jesus had done nothing to earn the love of God or merit his favor. True love is an unconditional gift from God. We too are beloved of God and bask in that unconditional love when he gazes down on us. If God so loves each one of us, we owe the same to each other.

Bill Wruck

At 3:28 PM, Anonymous Anon 1:37 a.m. said...

Mindy, no it doesn't. There isn't anything sacred at all in what a justice of the peace does, and no one tries to pretend otherwise. What other churches or governments do is completely seperate from what the church does with marriage. No one is going to mandate that the church must marry a couple even if the church says no. Heck, priests have the option of refusing to wed a straight couple if they choose not to. And a couple refused never goes to court and makes a priest marry them against his will. It wouldn't be any different. But this is an issue with no bearing on what the church would have to do.

And while everyone talks about "strengthening marriage," I also never hear a peep from anyone about making it tougher to file for divorce. That more than anything is what has set about the decline of marriage in this country. But the church, while not recognizing it, never campaigns to make it tougher to get one in a civil society. Nor do lawmakers. Why is that?

At 12:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The church doesn't recognize divorce; I don't know how much of a stronger stand it can take on that subject.

The Catholic church has maintained that marriage between a man and a women is a sacred union, and for it stand by and do nothing as legislation passes would, in effect, be an act by the church of diminishing the status of that union by quietly allowing the acceptance of another kind of relationship is its equivalent.

You're probably right- no one is going to shove a same-sex Catholic wedding ceremony down the church's throat, but my broader point is that, as more ideas become accepted norms by society in general, the more pressure is put on the church (not only the its governing bodies, but the entire body of its members- you and me) to accept these "norms" as okay. This has occurred in our society in many ways (accepted norms about sex & birth control for example), and I believe the results have been detrimental.

Btw, I think it should be a tougher task to get a divorce.

At 10:59 AM, Anonymous mindy said...

Anon of 3:28
I realize I didn't put my name on that, and I meant to- the 12:02 comment was my response to you.

Understand, I don't personally agree with everything the church espouses, but I try to live in accordance anyway. As I've grown, I have come to appreciate the fact that the church takes what some may view as a "hard line" on issues. Maybe it's because I have my own children to raise that I've begun to think this way, but clear and firm direction is a good thing. The church's commitment to the values it holds is one of the very things that draws me to it, even when I don't agree with certain issues- who'd of thought?!

At 2:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mindy, the church doesn't recognize civil marriages either, yet it's actively campaigning against any sorts of change to them. The church doesn't recognize divorce, and stays silent on the matter. The overall decline of marriage in this country can be blamed on a few different things, but homosexuality isn't one of them. It just isn't. Speaking out about gay people entering into unions the church doesn't even recognize is a waste of time, since the church won't ever have to recognize them.

In my opinion the opposition is also rooted in bigotry, unless you can come up with a different explanation which shows how the recognition of a civil practice can for the first time ever be mandated by law as a sacrament whether the church wants to recognize it or not?

At 1:05 PM, Anonymous mindy said...

"The overall decline of marriage in this country can be blamed on a few different things, but homosexuality isn't one of them."

I couldn't agree with you more- homosexuality isn't, in my opinion, the reason for increases in the divorce rate. The way society values marriage is. Our culture looks at marriage as an institution while the church talks about marriage as a sacrament, a sacred gift from God. When the church upholds its definition of marriage (between a man and woman) in any and every way it can, it is setting the example for its followers to uphold the value of their own marriages. The flip side of talking against divorce is speaking for marriage.

I know bigotry exists. I’m sorry it exists for so many people, but I respectfully disagree with you that the church is acting in that. Same sex marriage equates marriage between a man and woman and any other two in the eyes of the law, and that absolutely changes marriage as defined by the church- beyond the issue of sanctity. Of course they will stand up against that and ask its followers to do the same.

At 12:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mindy, I just disagree. What the church says and does about marriage isn't impacted at all spiritually by what the law says. The state has a definition for divorce, but the church doesn't. It isn't recognized. The same would happen if domestic partners of any kind were recognized by the government, which isn't supposed to be influenced by religion at all, just what's fair to everyone.

At 1:24 PM, Blogger fran said...

Perhaps this qualifies as a definition for divorce, by the church, as it is taken from the Cathecism of the Catholic Church:

2384 "Divorce is a grave offense against the natural law. It claims to break the contract, to which the spouses freely consented, to live with each other till death.
Divorce does injury to the covenant of salvation, of which sacramental marriage is the sign."

2385 "Divorce is immoral also because it introduces disorder into the family and into society. This disorder brings grave harm to the deserted spouse, to children traumatized by the separation of their parents and often torn between them, and because of its contagious effect which makes it truly a plague on society."


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