Being Transformed by the Baptism of Christ
“Being Transformed by the Baptism of Christ”
Archbishop Loren Thomas Hines
The Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord Jesus Christ and
First Sunday of Epiphany
January 10, 2016
Readings: Isaiah 42:1-9, Psalm 89:20-29
Luke 3:15-16; 21-22
In many ways, our thoughts and commitment to God have been reduced to ceremonies. We are so caught up in ceremony that we don’t receive the fullness of what the ceremony is about.
Jesus was about 30 years old when He was baptized. We don’t know much about his life before His baptism. They were not recorded because it is the Lord’s life after His baptism that God wants us to see and learn from. The life of Jesus changed drastically after His baptism. At His baptism the heavens opened, a declaration by God that He was putting aside and removing everything that has separated us from Him. The Holy Spirit descended upon the Lord and a voice came out of heaven, God Himself saying, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well pleased”.
Jesus was sent to us to destroy the works of the devil. When the Holy Spirit came upon Him, He was endued with power and since then, nothing could hold Him back. The demons cried out for mercy whenever He was near. He demonstrated His power, the power of God to the world; showed by His life that man should no longer be held in darkness, sin and sickness. Sadly, many of us still live in bondage. The day will come when all this will change. We just sang “Days of Elijah”, where we declared, “These are the days of Elijah declaring the Word of the Lord….and though these are days of great trials….still we are the voice in the desert crying, ‘Prepare ye the way of the Lord.” What’s our name? We are the Catholic Church of St. John, the Preparer of the Way. It’s our work to prepare the way and look to what Jesus did, showing us what the power of God in us can do. Still from the song Days of Elijah: “These are the days of Ezekiel, the dry bones becoming as flesh. And these are the days of Your servant David, rebuilding the temple of praise.” On this day that we celebrate the baptism of the Lord, God is showing us what He has already done for us.
Isaiah 42:5-9 “Thus says God the Lord who created the heavens….who spread out the earth….who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk on it. I have called you in righteousness. I will hold you by the hand and watch over you. And I will appoint you as a covenant to the people, as a light to the nations, to open blind eyes….” It’s our responsibility to be the light to the world; to open blind eyes, both physical and spiritual. Jesus became incarnate, took on flesh to show us what God intended for us from the beginning. “Behold, then former things have come to pass. Now I declare new things….” We have every reason to expect new things from God. We are the voice of the Church, shining as lights, conformed to Christ’s image.
God finished what He starts. He gave us the potential to be like Him, changing from glory to glory into His image, to His greatness. At the Lord’s baptism, God announced, “This is My beloved Son”. God was speaking about Jesus as God in the flesh, showing us how we are to live; telling us that we are to be like Him. He empowered Jesus by the Holy Spirit and by using this power, He confronted and destroyed the works of the devil. This tells us that we, being like Him, should do His work – destroying the works of the devil by our love for others and through righteous living. Jesus said, “Father, let them know that You love them like You love Me”. God loves us like He loves His beloved Son; therefore, what He did for Jesus He will also do for us.
Galatians 4:4-5 “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts….” He put the Spirit of His Son in our hearts. This Spirit will drive us to be like Him. We have become sons; we become what God is. This is what being born again is – born to a new life, a life like His.
2 Peter 1:3-4 “His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness….” He has granted us everything, and His plan doesn’t change. “He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature….” In another translation, it is referred to as “exceedingly great promises”. Our origin is from God.
Ephesians 3:19 “….to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.” Listen to these words and let them destroy the littleness of our thinking. To be filled with the fullness of God, with His divine nature is our destiny. “….the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” (Ephesians 1:23) “In Him you have been made complete….” (Colossians 2:10).
We just have to bring out what He created us to be. If only we believe, all things are possible. This is what Christ’s baptism says to us. The people saw Jesus only as the son of Joseph, and this is how we see ourselves today – just ordinary people. Then at baptism, the Holy Spirit came upon the Lord and empowered Him to destroy the works of the enemy. Does this not say to us that when we were baptized and the priest tells us, “The Holy Spirit is upon you”, that we have also been empowered like Christ to do the same works? Jesus tells us, “I am the Way”. He’s the example for us, pointing the way to how we should live our lives. Religion has put us in bondage in many ways. We’re told we’re sinners, unworthy; but the truth is Christ took away our sins and now we have become worthy. In the song “O Christ In Resplendent Glory”, we sing “We come to Your holy mountain to offer our bodies a sacrifice, living and holy.” Do we understand what this song is telling us?
On my way here today, I encountered floats celebrating the baptism of Christ. People may not understand the significance of His baptism but they celebrate it. So as we celebrate His baptism, may we understand what it does to us – it made us sons of God, given power by the Holy Spirit to do His works. We have no more reason to complain and grumble, but realizing who we are in Him, we can now live victorious, conquering lives. Remember, it isn’t the end until there’s victory. Let us take the baptism of the Lord and allow it to transform our lives, so we can live righteously and live with power. God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is with us, bringing into our lives so much potential, if only we believe.
We begin this year being reminded that God is with us, giving us the fullness of life. May His baptism transform our lives. We celebrate because He was baptized, cleansed for us, and the Holy Spirit came upon Him for us. Now we can be like Him. May we begin to see and believe that all things are possible in Him.