Homily on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord
You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased (Mk 1:11)
It has been said: The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord is an extension of the Solemnity of the Epiphany because “epiphany” means revealing/manifestation of God. The Gospel of Marks supports this thinking: After the baptism, on coming up out of the water, Jesus “saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased’” (Mk 1:10-11). The voice of God, the Father, revealed the One who walked into the Jordan is also “God from God, Light from Light.” Another way to put it, the Son born of the Blessed Virgin Mary is no other than the Son of the Eternal Father. The Baptism of the Lord deepens our understanding of the incarnation and what the Council of Chalcedon (451) declared: in Christ, two natures, each retaining its own properties, are united in one person.
In the Baptism of the Lord, the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus in the form of a dove; and at every Mass, the Church calls down the Holy Spirit to transform bread and wine into the Body and Blood of the Christ. It is appropriate for us to conclude our celebration of Christmas with this question: Why does Jesus give Himself to us as food and drink? In fact, the answer links the incarnation, i.e., humanity and divinity united in the One Divine Person, to the Holy Eucharist.
First, God’s whole plan for our salvation is directed to our participation in the life of the Trinity–the communion of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Our sharing in this life begins with our Baptism, when by the power of the Holy Spirit we are joined to Christ, thus becoming adopted sons and daughters of the Father. It is strengthened and increased in Confirmation. It is nourished and deepened through our participation in the Eucharist.
In our participation in the Eucharist, by eating the Body and drinking the Blood of Christ, we become united to the person of Christ through His humanity. “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him” (Jn 6:56). In being united to the humanity of Christ, we are at the same time united to His divinity. Our mortal and corruptible nature is transformed by being joined to the source of life. “Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me” (Jn 6:57).
Thus, without the incarnation, there is no humanity in God; and therefore we would not be able to receive the humanity of Jesus through eating His Body and drinking His Blood to unite to His divinity. Uniting to His divinity, we share in the life of God, the fullness of salvation. What a wondrous plan of God to save us!
The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord brings the Christmas Season to a close, and we make a transition back to Ordinary Times until February 17 when Ash Wednesday ushers in another liturgical season, Lent. May our reflection on the link of incarnation and Holy Eucharist help us to not fall into the trap of thinking “Ordinary Times” as nothing happened. In fact, we should not take for granted every Eucharistic celebration. In the communion procession, we hear the proclamation, “The Body of Christ/The Blood of Christ,” and respond in faith “Amen.” We proclaim: The humanity that the Son of God assumed in the incarnation has become the means of salvation. Receiving Body and drinking the Blood of Christ in the Eucharist, we unite to the person of Christ and thus sharers in the divine life. May we always be grateful to the Lord who gives Himself to us as food and drink! Amen.