We hear in today’s Gospel that when Jesus was baptised ‘he saw the heavens opened up and the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming down on him. And a voice spoke from heaven, this is my Son, the Beloved, my favour rests on him.’ We have in this short passage The Holy Trinity, the names of whom we have all been baptised in. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. I often tell people when I celebrate a Baptism, that in heaven God says this about each and every person Baptised. When we are baptised, we are reborn, we become new creations and by doing so, we become God’s adopted [or chosen] children. We become part of the Body of Christ.
If we examine the other readings today, we hear that ‘God does not have favourites, but that anybody of any nationality who fears God and does what is right is acceptable to him.’ The feasts and solemnities from the past few weeks emphasise that Jesus came for all of us. Initially Jesus came for the Jews, his first visitors were the shepherds who looked after the flocks; the same flocks which would probably have been used for the sacrifices ordained by the Law of Moses. The next visitors were the magi from the east, non-Jews, emphasising that Jesus came not just for the Jews, but for the whole human race.
The first reading brings both of these readings together within the first paragraph, where Isaiah says, ‘I have endowed him with my spirit, that he may bring true justice to the nations.’ Jesus endowed with the spirit, by baptism [which unlike us, he didn’t need] bringing justice and mercy to all of the nations. God does not have favourites, God loves everyone.
This weekend we have a Pastoral Letter from Bishop Philip, where the Bishop pays tribute to the late Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Benedict was a man of great intellect, a theological genius and a man who had a reputation for defending the Church fiercely while he served St Pope John Paul II. He appeared to change during his Papacy and was able to show his paternal care for the Church in a more pastoral manner.
I remember being at a Mass in a park in Birmingham, where he celebrated the beatification of St John Henry Newman. Our bus arrived late, and we were encouraged to take a place off to the side where we could barely see the altar. The initial disappointment of being placed there soon disappeared when we realised that Pope Benedict would enter the park just a few feet away from where we were positioned. As he passed by, roughly 20 feet in front of us, we had a brilliant view, but what struck me most was the sheer enthusiasm and joy of everyone as we saw the successor of Peter, here in our country.
There is no doubt that Pope Benedict was a faithful servant of God. People like him inspire us to be better followers of Jesus. It is one of the marvellous things about our Catholic faith that we have so many worthy role models to look upon and learn from. As we, in our Diocese, enter the Year of the Holy Spirit, I pray that the Holy Spirit will help us all to identify the role model best suited for us. I pray that the Holy Spirit will lead us to a more intimate relationship with Jesus, so that we can build up our Church the way that Jesus wants it to be. I pray that through the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we can all play our part in the Body of Christ, which through our baptism we are truly part of.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church
CCC 535-537: The Baptism of Jesus
CCC 1247-1249: The Baptism of adults
CCC 1250-1251: The Baptism of infants
CCC 1253-1255: Faith and Baptism
CCC 1257-1261: The necessity of Baptism
CCC 1262-1266: The Grace of Baptism, for the forgiveness of sins, a new creature CCC 1267-1270: Incorporated into the Church, the Body of Christ
CCC 1271-1274: The sacramental bond of the unity of Christians, an indelible spiritual mark.
Please keep in your prayers this week
- The success of the Year of the Holy Spirit.
- Those who are sick, those recovering from surgery, those who are dying, the recently deceased and those who mourn.
- All those struggling to feed their families at this time.
- Those working to help others who are struggling with the cost-of-living crisis.
- All of our young people preparing for the Sacraments.
- Those attending our RCIA programme.
- Milo who is being baptised at Holy Ghost this weekend.
- The families starting the Baptism Preparation sessions at St Bede’s this Sunday.