Sunday Reflection with Fr Robin Gibbons - 12 January 2020

Feast of the Baptism of the Lord

Do we ever really learn lessons from the past? Looking and listening to our news we might be forgiven for thinking that humans rarely take heed from the lessons of the past, but have to learn by their own mistakes. I'm sure some of you can prove my comment wrong and show us all great strides in human endeavour, against disease, against poverty, against ignorance, all of which are the result of developments based on the bad experiences of other times.

And yet at the back of my mind is a niggling thought, how can we change when so much of what we do seems to be very self interested and partial to ourselves? In the Book of Acts we discover one of the most important insights into the foundations of our own faith:

'Then Peter proceeded to speak and said, "In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him.' (Acts 10:34,35)

I can agree to that, I can believe in it deep in my heart and yet I also know that I have not lived up to that calling, because it is our calling, rooted in our Baptism and Confirmation, a little further on Peter reminds us not only of his ministry and mission but of all the baptised, this is our commission too, not just those who are tasked to do so by formal ministry:

'He commissioned us to preach to the people and testify that he is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness, that everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name.'(Acts 10: 42,43)

This is what the feast of the Baptism of Jesus means, by being the prototype of all of us who descend into the waters in God's name, and who have the anointing gift of the Holy Spirit, the Christ shows us the way forward and the reception of the promises of God. Salvation is ours, forgiveness is ours, as is a relationship with the Divine One, who through Jesus Christ and the Spirit, binds us totally and always to the God of the Covenant not as servants but as family and friends. In return we commit ourselves to this, to show impartiality, not to create barriers between people and also our living world, to restore and enhance not to destroy, to do good and heal hurts not cause war.

There is no choice; this is the seal of the Spirit on my life as well as yours. Baptism and Confirmation, those 'Awe Inspiring Rites of Initiation', as the late Ted Yarnold SJ called the title of his book, do not differentiate between anybody, neither gender, not status, nor colour, nor racial characteristic or education hinder or halt the Spirit's gift.

Perhaps we can make a resolution, to renew the promises of our own Initiation by working to rid ourselves and our world of prejudice and bigotry, especially in the use religion as a means of division. Do make time to celebrate the day of your own baptism, and if you can't remember the date, find it out and treat the day as a 'faith birthday', for in truth that is when God formally adopted you and me as real children of heaven!

From the Angelus Address on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, 2019

Pope Francis

'To be faithful and fruitful, the mission of the Church and that of each one of us is also called to be "inserted" in that of Jesus. It's about continually regenerating evangelization and the apostolate in prayer, to give a clear Christian witness, not according to our human plans, but according to God's plan and style.

Dear brothers and sisters, the feast of the Lord's Baptism is a propitious occasion to renew the promises of our Baptism with gratitude and conviction, committing ourselves to live daily in coherence with it. It is also very important - as I've said to you various times -, to know the date of our Baptism. I might ask: Which one of you knows the date of his/her Baptism? Not all, certainly. If some of you don't know it, when you go home, ask your parents, grandparents aunts, and uncles, godparents, friends of the family . . . Ask: "On what date was I baptized?" And then, don't forget it: may it be a date guarded in your heart to celebrate it every year.

May Jesus, who has saved us not by our merits but to implement the Father's immense goodness, make us merciful towards all. May the Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy, be our guide and our model'.

From the Catechetical homilies of St Cyril of Jerusalem

Having taken therefore Christ as our pattern, let us draw near to the grace of holy baptism, that so we may gain boldness to pray constantly, and lift up holy hands to God the Father, that He may open the heavens also unto us, and send down upon us too the Holy Ghost, to receive us as sons. For He spake unto Christ at the time of holy baptism, as though having by Him and in Him accepted man upon earth to the sonship, "This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased." For He Who is the Son by nature and in truth, and the Only-begotten, when He became like unto us, is specially declared to be the Son of God, not as receiving this for Himself:----for He was and is, as I said, very Son:----but that He might ratify the glory unto us. For He has been made our first fruits, and first born, and second Adam: for which reason it is said, that "in Him all things have become new:" for having put oil the oldness that was in Adam, we have gained the newness that is in Christ: by Whom and with Whom, to God the Father, be glory and dominion with the Holy Ghost, for ever and ever, Amen.

Tags: Sunday Reflection with Fr Robin Gibbons, 12 January 2020, Baptism of Our Lord

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