This is the love of God: that we keep His commandments –The Baptism of the Lord 2018

Friends, today is the celebration of the Lord's Baptism. Yesterday it was Epiphany, the manifestation of Jesus to all people. Jesus makes himself known so that we can have life in him through baptism. With the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist in the River Jordan, his public activity begins. In the evangelists, Jesus is presented as the heir to God's promises to Abraham, and at the same time the heir to what God promised David. Christ's baptism is our baptism, our death and our resurrection. It is our descent to death and our ascent from the kingdom of death. Therefore, our celebration of the Lord's baptism today is important to us Christians. Baptism speaks wonderful words of life, of power and victory. It really speaks to us Christians. It helps us to better understand who we are and are called to be. It shows us the vision God has for us. Baptism is God's sign in us, like a tattoo that cannot be removed.

In the Old Testament, we meet foreshadows proclaiming the liberation fulfilled in baptism, for example, Noah's ark and the Red Sea events. In Christ, all role prefigures in the Old Testament are fulfilled. God has in many ways allowed water to foretell the grace of baptism. Water is the source of life and fertility. In Noah's ark, a few (8) people were saved through water. The passage through the Red Sea was Israel's liberation from slavery in Egypt. The passage through the Jordan symbolizes participation in Jesus' death and resurrection. All pre-figures in the Old Covenant are fulfilled in Christ Jesus.

Baptism is fellowship with Christ's death and resurrection. Baptism is the foundation of all Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit and the door that opens to other sacraments. It is the sacrament of rebirth through water and words. Baptism restores and renews through the Holy Spirit (Tit 3:15). The baptized becomes new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15). Without baptism no one can be saved (John 3: 5). In baptism we receive the Word, the true light that gives all people light. Baptism is the most beautiful gift God gives to his people. Unfortunately, many Christian parents deny their children this incredible gift.

Before the advent of John the Baptist, the Jews had lived in the darkness and the promise to Abraham and David seemed to have fallen into God's silence. There were no longer prophets. God seemed to have forsaken his people. The country was full of worries. There were contradictions between different movements, hopes and expectations determined the religious and political climate. Judas Galilee who led the Zealots had been killed for instigating an uprising. They were ready to use terror and violence to bring freedom to Israel.

John the Baptist's mission is described by the four evangelists in a place in Isaiah as: "A voice cries in the wilderness" (Isaiah 40: 3). In Markus, we find a further reference from Malachi 3: 1 and 2: 33: 20. With John, these old words of hope had become one present reality. Therefore, we can imagine the impression that the Baptist's person and message had brought among the people.

Since Pentecost, the Church has celebrated and administered the sacrament of baptism. Peter urges the people: "Repent and let all of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ so that you receive forgiveness for your sins. Then you will receive the Holy Ghost as a gift (Acts 2:38). Everyone who believed in Christ was offered baptism by the apostles. The baptized have joined Christ (1 Corinthians 6:11). John's baptism is something completely new. His baptism differs from the usual religious baths. The baptism of John is not repeated and is a concrete radical complete turning point in one’s entire life. John's baptism is not provided in the Torah, but Jesus with his Yes acknowledges it. It is the beginning of a new way of thinking and living.

A decisive time had come. At last God had sent a prophet to his people. God once again announces his action in history. Evangelist Markus probably exaggerates the number of people who went to be baptized by John when he writes that all of Judea and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem went out to him and were baptized by him in the Jordan River and confessed their sins (1: 5). We learn that repentance and confession belonged to John's baptism. The river appears as a symbol for death and life - the immersion in the water (descent in the grave). The great rivers of the Nile, Euphrates and Tigris are life-giving streams. Jordan is also the source of life for its surroundings even today.

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Jesus takes the sinner's place. In his baptism he preaches the cross - he takes the burden of humanity. He is so to say the true Jonah ("Take and Throw Me in the Sea" (Jonah 1:12). Jesus received baptism to fulfil all righteousness. The baptism is also a sign of the death of Jesus (Matthew 10:38; Luke 12: 49). Baptism deals with cleansing and liberation from the uncleanness of the past. In a way, it is about rebirth. Baptism frees us from nameless powers that hold us captive, which manipulate us.

It is from this that we can understand the Christian baptism. It is the foreshadow of death on the cross and the foreshadow of the resurrection that is happens in Jesus. Our own baptism is our identification with Jesus' baptism. In the eastern Church, Epifania is both baptism and Easter day. Jesus calls us to fulfil all righteousness.

Jesus had no sin to confess and be cleansed. What did he do when he received John's baptism? He was in prayer. He took on our sins and became God's lamb, which removes the sins of the world. As the lamb is sacrificed instead of Isaac, Jesus is sacrificed for our sake. It was our death he died. The baptism of Jesus is told to show that the Spirit is the source of Jesus 'salvation work and to demonstrate Jesus' identity.

Christians are reminded that we share in Jesus' sonship through the Holy Ghost. Through this, the evangelists want to draw attention to the fact that our baptism calls us to allow the spirit of Christ to be active in our lives. The new identity that comes with baptism is not just for us to keep but calling for a life in Jesus, the servant of God. In this context, we understand what John says in the second reading: "For this is the love of God, that we may keep his commandments." (1Joh 5: 2-3). It is with our faith we defeat the world. But our faith must be consistent with our actions. Therefore, James says, "Faith without good work is dead"

The Spirit of God declared at the baptism of Jesus that he is the beloved Son of God, the elect that the prophet Isaiah foretold (42: 1). Finally, the evangelist John declares: "I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God" (John 1:34). Baptism makes us the children of light and we have the duty not to let the power of darkness extinguish our light. The choice is ours! The spirit witnessed at the baptism of Jesus that he is God’s beloved son, the chosen one.  We As Christians we have become the children of God through water and spirit. Baptism commits us to serve God and fellow human beings.

"See my thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not my ways. As much as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts higher than your thoughts” The word of God does not fall on earth without fulfilling what God wants and accomplishing what he sent it to. " This needs to be heard today when it often seems that God has nothing to do with our daily life, that he does not care that we can do what we want. Money cannot solve all problems and never can buy God’s blessing. Chikezie Onuoha MSP

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