Extracts of the homily given at Our Lady of Willesden on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, 11 January 2015.
Today we rejoice with the parents of this baby boy whom they are bringing for baptism.
They have brought him into the world, to be a part of the life of their loving family. He is their pride and joy.
Now they hold out their child that he may receive the fullness of life, in the gift of the Holy Spirit, given in Baptism, and destined to grow into its full stature in the unending happiness of heaven.
With them we hold up ourselves, that today this same gift of faith, this same grace of our baptism, will be renewed in us today.
We hold up our loved ones, those who are sick, elderly, young, troubled or just full of mischief.
We hold up our world, our troubled world, that the Lord will bless our world and grant us stability and peace. Today we hold before him all those who lost their lives in the dreadful violence in Nigeria and in the murders committed in France.
May God be with us in every moment.
This morning this baby is baptised. He enters the waters of baptism. We hear the prayers of blessing over these waters. We ask God to open them to be the fount of our salvation, the waters of grace flowing into this tiny person, to stay with him for ever.
The baby is lowered so that the water may flow over him. Indeed sometimes people go down totally into the water. Then the water becomes a clear sign of all that is dark and hostile in our world. It is a sign of the darkness of the death and the tomb that Jesus entered. Indeed, the waters can also remind us that darkness will certainly touch our lives and that physical death awaits us all. It cannot be avoided. But just as Jesus rose up from that tomb, came out of the darkness of death, so too it will happen to us. Clinging to him, we will be drawn, by the power of the Holy Spirit, out of every dark water, carried into His light and His life. This too is the promise we are given in baptism
Today is the Feast of the Baptism of Jesus himself. His baptism opened for each one of us the pathway of baptism which this little boy takes today and in which we are renewed.
In the account of the baptism of Jesus we go right to the heart of God’s gift. We hear what it is all about:
‘This is my son.’ Yes, in baptism we come to know who our heavenly Father really is. We are sons and daughters of one Father who, with our parents, has given us the gift of life and now opens up that pathway of life to its fullness.
‘The beloved’. Yes, in baptism we learn that as we are bonded to Jesus so we too are utterly beloved of our Father. Even if no-one else, at times, can see the goodness within us, God our Father never takes his loving eyes off us. This is why God is always full of mercy and forgiveness for us. We are His beloved.
‘The Holy Spirit came down on him.’ In baptism we receive the living presence of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, making us his temples, his home.
This is the new reality which is born in us at our baptism and which is renewed today: a conscious sharing in the life of God; new relationships for us within the life of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is the circle in which we are now invited to move, every moment, every day, in every action, always in the company of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, never alone, always embraced, always strengthened and guided, at peace.
And at baptism we receive a new name. Today this baby boy is called Isaac James. Let us rejoice today in our baptismal names – the name by which we are known to God and to one another!
Then, finally, we also learn that in baptism, in being drawn into a new circle of life, the life of knowing Jesus as our closest love and saviour, of knowing our Heavenly Father who has us always in His loving gaze, of knowing the presence and power of the Holy Spirit within us, we are given a new sense of purpose – to live this life to the full and to show it and share it with others. We do this out of love. We know the love we receive and to which we want to respond. We let that love show in the ways we treat others, in what we say, in the purpose in life we embrace. ‘He is my love!’ It shows! ‘Let me tell you about him, for he loves you too!’
This year, in our parishes and dioceses, we want to make this call of faith, the call to be missionary disciples, more readily embraced and understood. Our joy in life, centred on Jesus, is something we want to share. We can encourage each other to do so. There are steps for us to take so that our hearts are more turned outwards, more tuned to the needs of those around. There are steps we can take so that our parishes are more mission-shaped, more conscious of those who are not there, or who come only occasionally. Can we not reach out to them and gently invite their return? Together, through our “Proclaim ’15” initiative, we can really make a difference.
At our baptism this morning we again profess our faith in Father, Son and Holy Spirit. As we do so we say: ‘This is our faith. This is the faith of the Church and we are proud to profess it in Christ Jesus Our Lord.’ May this year see this confidence in our faith really grow and be expressed in a gentle, respectful and joyful outreach to all around us. May this feast of the Baptism of the Lord, the day in which he was presented to the world as our loving light and saviour, be the beginning of something good for us all and great in his service. Amen