The Baptism of Jesus

Homily for January 10, 2021

When was the last time you reached out to hold someone’s hand? When was the last time someone took your hand in theirs? During this time of pandemic, I’m guessing the answer is “It’s been awhile.” For health reasons, we are avoiding close contact with others to prevent the spread of COVID-19. But we know that taking someone by the hand can create a special connection with that person, a connection that affects us physically, emotionally and spirituality. A few examples come to mind:

  • The first time you hold your child or grandchild and they grab your finger with their tiny hands. You think: “What a strong, healthy grip!”
  • You are walking with a toddler in a public place and you take their hand to guide them and guard them
  • Or, on the day of your wedding, the presider instructs you and your bride to face each other and join hands to profess your vows
  • When you sit by the bed of a sick of dying loved one and hold their hand to give them comfort – to accompany them

Today’s readings remind us of the special connections we have with God, and with others.

The Baptism of Jesus is foretold in today’s first reading (Is 42:1-4, 6-7). The prophet Isaiah tells how God will select his chosen one, the one with whom he is pleased, and put his spirit upon him. In that reading, we also hear an interesting phrase, “I have grasped you by the hand.” This describes how God holds out his hand in Baptism and our lives are connected to God’s love.

As we hear in today’s Gospel (Mk 1:7-11) “The Baptism of Jesus,” God sends his Holy Spirit – in the form of a dove – to descend on Jesus. God creates a special connection between God and his Son

In our Second Reading (Acts 10:34-38) St. Peter proclaims how Jesus – through the baptism preached by John – was anointed with the Holy Spirit and given power to carry out his ministry.

In our own baptism, God touches us in a special way, and through the Holy Spirit we are connected to God.

When we are Baptized and welcomed into the Catholic Church, we are anointed twice:

  • First, we are anointed with the Oil of Catechumens to cleanse us of our sin; and
  • Second, after we have been baptized with water, we are anointed with the Oil of Chrism (“the Chrism of salvation”) to strengthen us so that we may “remain members of Christ, Priest, Prophet and King, unto eternal life.”

We are anointed “Priest” that we may live a life of holiness; “Prophet” that we may share the Good News of Christ with others; and “King” that we may be good stewards of all of the gifts God has given us.

Today’s readings remind us that the Holy Spirit is more than an abstract idea or symbolic gesture. Through Baptism the Holy Spirit “grasps us by the hand” and connects us to God. This lifelong relationship with the Holy Spirit can be transformative – if we continue to participate in this relationship.


So, how do we experience a transformative relationship with the Holy Spirit?

  1. We have to trust and believe that the Holy Spirit is real, and alive in us. The Spirit came into our lives through Baptism and, as Jesus promised, will remain with us for all of our life. But, like any other friend that we do not speak to or spend time with, our relationship with the Holy Spirit can become stagnant.
  2. We need to cultivate a strong relationship with the Holy Spirit. We do this through prayer and reflection, and by giving the Holy Spirit permission to transform our lives.

It took me some time to appreciate the power of the Holy Spirit in my life. That power was revealed to me in a Life in the Spirit seminar hosted by our parish. Through that seminar, I learned that committing to the prayers and reflections shared at the seminar, and by opening my heart and mind to the Holy Spirit alive within me, my life would be changed – for the better:

  • I developed a more powerful appreciation of God’s love for me, and my love for others
  • I better understood that the Spirit is alive in me, patiently waiting for me to allow the Spirit to guide me (to “grasp my hand” and lead me)
  • I experienced a deeper prayer life and a stronger connection to God through his Word

I invite you to participate in a Life in the Spirit seminar the next time one is available. In the meantime, know that the Holy Spirit is alive in all of us. To grow in relationship, simply and explicitly ask God for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Open your heart and mind to the transformative power of the Spirit and allow yourself to be changed.

I encourage you to take some time this week to reflect on the Holy Spirit. Ask yourself:

  • Is the Holy Spirit a symbol or a reality for you?
  • Are you willing to give the Spirit permission to be alive in you?
  • Can you hear the Spirit (that still, small voice) calling you to a new relationship?

Today, as we come forward to receive the Body of Christ, may we be filled with God’s saving grace and, as beloved children of God, proclaim: Come, Holy Spirit, Come!

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