Homilies for 2022

January 2022

Homily for January 9, 2022, The Baptism of the Lord
(Year C)

Homilist: Deacon Doug Farwell

On Jesus, the beloved Son of the Father, the glory of the Lord has been revealed.

Salvation is offered to all and the earth is renewed.

He is the light of the nations and Lord of all creation.

To him be all glory and praise

The One Prophesied

Last week we celebrated the “Epiphany of the Lord” in which Jesus was made manifest to the world through the Magi from the east. Up to this time, there was probably some uncertainty of the true identity of the Christ child. It was, after all, the shepherds who had first been alerted to this birth. And who were the shepherds, but people of a lowly stature, commoners—some not to be trusted even.

With the arrival of the Magi or kings or wise men—whichever you chose—they were of high esteem. Educated, learned men who would be respected. Even King Herod put some trust into their knowledge of astronomy. Further, they arrived bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Perhaps it even convinced Joseph and Mary of the manifestation of their child.

Today the “Baptisms of the Lord” continues the theme of the Epiphany. God is manifest in the incarnate Christ at the waters of the Jordan as he was at the manger and to the Magi.

We have a couple options for our readings today, and I chose to use the readings particular to Year C. Part of the reasoning behind my choice is that I like to offer something different to gain new insights into scripture. Mostly though, it’s through the Holy Spirit, for as I prepared for this week’s homily, I kept being drawn back to these readings of the current liturgical year.

Our first reading from the prophet, Isaiah, Chapter 40, is the beginning of the great messianic oracles known as the “Songs of the Servant.” It continues through Chapter 55 and speaks of the mysterious destiny of the Servant’s suffering and glorification being fulfilled through the passion and glorification of Christ. In other words, as Christians, we view this as Jesus being the Servant who is prophesied.

Speaking on behalf of God, Isaiah tells the people of Israel their sins are soon to be expiated and comfort will come to all. A reference is made to John the Baptist—the voice crying out to prepare the way for the Lord. The glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people shall see it together. He will have the power of the Lord God, and He will tend to you as a shepherd tends to their sheep. Gathering the lambs into His arms, carrying them to His bosom, leading His ewes with care, and laying down His life for all.

Rebirth and Renewal: The Promise of Baptism

The letter of St. Paul to Titus references the baptism that brings a rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit and the appearance of God’s Grace and Glory suggest the manifestation of Christ who is celebrated in this feast today. Paul’s ministry takes place after Jesus’s Death, Resurrection and Ascension. It’s a reminder that, like Paul, we too are living in an advent time, awaiting  Christ’s second coming. It requires the same anticipation and preparation as before the birth of Christ and must be a present reality, never forgotten nor ignored, but committing ourselves to lives of sinlessness and love of God. It is through the baptism instituted by Christ that we are saved. Not because we deserve or earned it, but solely for love’s sake, because God knows the human heart regularly wanders from Him through godless ways and worldly desires.

This bath of rebirth (i.e., baptism) and renewal of the Holy Spirit justifies us through grace and offers us the inheritance of the Heavenly Kingdom. Through baptism, we become true children of God and now belong to Him.

The word “baptize” in Greek means “to drown,” or “to be completely submerged.” It implies death. Even though most of us received our baptism by the pouring of water over our heads, which is legitimate, the more complete symbolic way is to be submerged and then reemerge into new life cleansed of our sins. For baptism is a sort of death and resurrection—a rebirth. We die to our old self, which we received through our parents at our birth with the stain of original sin. We then exchange it for a new life and identity with God, in which He sends the Holy Spirit into our souls so we may acquire inheritance into eternal life.

As we hear today, this only happens through the baptism of Christ, who baptizes with the Holy Spirit and fire. The fire referenced here is not a fire we think of as consuming and destroying. Rather, it is a fire similar to the fire that Moses saw: The bush was ablaze but not consumed. This is the fire we are baptized with. We are ablaze with the fire of the Holy Spirit that only burns away our sins, leaving us pure and refined.

The Christ Made Manifest Through The Holy Spirit

While Luke wants to ensure the distinction between John and Jesus, the main theme of the Gospel is to proclaim Jesus as the prophetic Messiah referenced in Isaiah. But what is revealed in the Gospel is the ultimate manifestation, by the ultimate source, God himself. It’s the manifestation of Jesus as the “Son of God” conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, he exercises His mission by the power of that same Spirit. John testifies there is one mightier than himself coming, and once that manifestation is made, John’s role decreases as Jesus ‘role increases.

What also is made significant in Luke’s gospel is the descent of the Holy Spirit. It doesn’t come upon Jesus as He rises from the waters of the Jordan, but rather as He is in prayer. God is the presider in this act of receiving the Holy Spirit, not John, as in the initial act of baptizing Jesus. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus is at prayer at each significant occasion in his ministry. Prayer is integral to the life of Jesus and that is portrayed to us as an example of how prayer should be integral in the lives of all ministers and of all believers.

It’s through prayer that we are empowered by the Spirit. Prayer strengthens and provides the stamina to endure the demanding life of the disciple. Through baptism, we become disciples and made manifest as God, who sends the Spirit upon us and announces us as His beloved sons and daughters.

Homily for January 2, 2022, Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord (Cycle C)

Homilist: Rev Patrick Connor

For he shall rescue the poor when he cries out,

And the afflicted when he has no one to help him.

He shall have pity for the lowly and the poor;

The lives of the poor he shall save.”

 Am I a Seeker of Jesus?

These words, from today’s Responsorial Psalm 72, point us to the great gift of God in Jesus, The Child Of Bethlehem, whom we honor this Christmas season.

This Child Of Bethlehem, who laid aside the wealth of Heaven and the glory of His Divinity to assume our humanity and embrace a life of poverty, is Himself God’s gift. Not to be measured in money, but in the gift of God’s love He brings to us—a love that shines in the deepest night as the Star Of Bethlehem, a sign of hope that guided both shepherds and Magi to where the child dwelled with Mary and Joseph.

The three Magi, who made their journey and followed the star, did not know the full identity of Him whom they sought. Yet, they knew to set aside everything and went to find Him.

In the many details of this search, it leaves me with this fundamental question:

Am I also a seeker of Jesus, and do I follow the star that guides me to His dwelling place, where I may offer Him a gift
—not of gold, frankincense and myrrh—
but a humble heart open to His Word and full of love for Him?

Our Gospel acclamation today calls us to this gift, quoting the Magi as they were speaking with Herod, “We saw His Star at its rising, and have come to Him homage.”

Webster’s Dictionary defines “homage” in a few ways, one of which is “something that shows respect or attests to the worth or influence of another.

So, here we are at Mass to celebrate this beautiful feast. There are two Masses for this feast: one for the Vigil and one for the Mass During The Day.

Let me share with you the opening prayer for both Masses.

This is for the Vigil Mass: “May the splendor of your majesty, O Lord, we pray, shed its light upon our hearts, that we may pass through the shadows of this world and reach the brightness of our eternal home.”

 Now listen to the opening prayer for the Mass During The Day: “O God, who on this day revealed Your only begotten Son to the nations by the guidance of a star, grant in Your mercy that we, who know You already by faith, may be brought to behold the beauty of Your sublime glory.”

Two phrases from both prayers stand out for me:

  • “That we may pass through the shadows of this world and reach the brightness of our eternal home” from the Vigil Mass, and
  • From the Mass During The Day: “Grant that we who know You already by faith may be brought to behold the beauty of your sublime glory.”

Shadows of this world and we who know you already by faith to behold the beauty of your sublime glory. Think about the shadows of your world and think about the Magi as they traveled through their own shadows over the great distances of their journey. Even in those shadows—which at times must have been fearful, hiding perhaps dangerous creatures or possibly dangerous people—they kept their eyes on the star, which for them held a promise and hope that gave them courage to keep on going.

The Magi finally arrived at the house where the Gospel says the Holy Family was staying. There, they beheld the beauty of the Christ Child, not in His Sublime Glory where His Divinity would show forth, but the beauty of Baby Jesus’ face and perhaps a smile, reveling a love. I’m sure Mary and Joseph had a smile for the Magi as well.

Becoming Like the Magi

 Now, think again about your life and those shadows you meet along life’s journey. We have experienced the shadows of the Corona and now Omicron viruses, which created anxiety and fear. And just think about the other sufferings in your life, and how easily it can turn our attention inward.

Now, imagine how those Magi turned their attention from inward to upward—to the heavens and that bright star, the Star of Bethlehem! It was their light of hope.

So, too, with you and me: There’s a bright star calling us to look upward. Not so much an actual star, but at a light that shines for us—the light of Jesus, who not only dwells in Heaven, but remains here on earth with us through the gift of the Holy Spirit.

It is that same Holy Spirit, through the ministry of the priest, changes bread and wine into the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, of Jesus Christ.

This is so we, who cannot see yet His Glory but simply ordinary bread and wine, yet in faith, we behold something greater than a star. We receive He who is the Light Of The World because of His great love for us.

Jesus is God the Father’s greatest gift to us. What is our gift to Jesus? He does not seek perfection from us. Instead, he seeks our love.

And that is worth more than any amount of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Be sure you tell Jesus you love Him,  and listen as He says, “I love you!”