FR. TONY'S JOKES OF THE WEEK

1) Baptism of a cat: Johnny’s Mother looked out the window and noticed him “playing church” with their cat. He had the cat sitting quietly and he was preaching to it. She smiled and went about her work. A while later she heard loud meowing and hissing and ran back to the open window to see Johnny baptizing the cat in a tub of water. She called out, “Johnny, stop that! The cat is afraid of water!” Johnny looked up at her and said, “He should have thought about that before he joined my church.”

2) Three times: Too many people come to Church three times primarily. They’re baptized, they get married, and they have their funeral service at the Church. The first time they throw water on you, the second time rice, the third time dirt!

3) Baptized in luxury: When our church was renovated, adding a Baptismal pool, we were pleased. So was our daughter. While riding in the car with my daughter and her friend, we went past a pond. My daughter’s friend proudly declared, “I was baptized in that pond.” My daughter responded with no less pride: “Oh, I was baptized in a Jacuzzi at our church.” (Pastor Davis).

4) “Born again.” When Jimmy Carter was elected President of the United States, he described himself as a “born-again” Christian. For many Americans this was an unfamiliar term. By the time of the next election primaries, nearly all the candidates were claiming to be “born-again.” Political satirist Mark Russell suggested, “This could give Christianity a bad name.”

5) A keg of beer and a case of whiskey: Before performing a Baptism, the priest approached the young father and said solemnly, “Baptism is a serious step. Are you prepared for it?” “I think so,” the man replied. “My wife has made appetizers and we have a caterer coming to provide plenty of cookies and cakes for all of our guests.” “I don’t mean that,” the priest responded. “I mean, are you prepared spiritually?” “Oh, sure,” came the reply. “I’ve got a keg of beer and a case of whiskey.”

6) God help the fish.” Sam Houston was the first president of the Republic of Texas. It’s said he was a rather nasty fellow with a checkered past. Later in life Houston made a commitment to Christ and was baptized in a river. The preacher said to him, “Sam, your sins are washed away.” Houston replied, “God help the fish.”

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HOMILYILLUSTRATIONSMESSAGESCOMMENTARY

Today’s Gospel seems to suggest that Jesus received from Heaven a fresh flash of realization of Who, and Whose, He really was (His identity) and of what He was supposed to do (His mission), on the day of his baptism in the river Jordan. (See homily illustration below)

Fr. Tony’s 8-Minute Homily

Baptism of the Lord (B)

Fr. Tony’s Homily (everything on one page)

Introduction

The Baptism of the Lord is the great event celebrated by the Eastern churches on the feast of Epiphany because it is the occasion of the first public revelation of all the Three Persons in the Holy Trinity, and the official revelation of Jesus as the Son of God to the world by God the Father.  Hence, it is described by all four Gospels. This baptism marks the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. 

The turning point: His baptism by John was an especially important event in the life of Jesus. First,  it was a moment of identification with us sinners. Sinless, Jesus received the baptism of repentance to identify himself with his people, who realized for the first time that they were sinners. (As given in the anecdotes below, St. Damien, Blessed Mother Teresa, Gandhi, and Mandela identified with the people whom they served). Second, it was a moment of conviction about his identity and mission: that He is the Son of God and His mission was to preach the Good News of God’s love and salvation and to atone for our sins by becoming the “suffering servant.” God the  Father’s words, “This is My beloved Son,” taken from Psalm 2:17, reveal Jesus’ identity as God’s Son, and the words “with whom I am well pleased,” from Isaiah 42:1 (referring to the suffering servant“), pointed to Jesus’ mission of atoning for the sins of the world by His suffering and death on the cross. Third, it was a moment of equipment.  The Holy Spirit equipped Jesus by descending on him in the form of dove, giving him the power of preaching and healing. Fourth, it was a moment of decision for Jesus to begin public ministry at the most opportune time after receiving the approval of his Heavenly Father as His beloved Son.

Starter Anecdote(s)

Select one or two of the following illustrations to insert here. View more by clicking on the “ILLUSTRATIONS” tab above. Feel free to insert more throughout the homily if so desired (but this should not be overdone).
Illustration A — Thomas Merton

Thomas Merton

A young man once described his experience of sinking into insanity. He was a very bright university student, but he had abandoned his studies in favor of nightclubs and pornography. One night he retired to a hotel room. As he lay in bed, the window appeared to expand until it reached the floor. He heard a mocking voice in his mind saying, “What if you threw yourself out of that window?”

The young man wrote: “Now my life was dominated by something I had never known before: fear. It was humiliating, this strange self-conscious watchfulness. It was a humiliation I had deserved more than I knew. I had refused to pay attention to the moral laws upon which all vitality and sanity depend.”

Well, this young man did begin to pay attention to the moral law. He began to put his life in order – and to experience inner peace. He eventually entered the Catholic Church and went on to become one of the most famous monks of the twentieth century. His name is Thomas Merton.

Today’s Gospel account of Jesus ‘baptism should challenge us, too, to examine whether we are keeping our Baptismal promises. (Fr. Phil Bloom)

(Fr. Tony) http://frtonyshomilies.com/
Illustration B — Identity-awareness moments

Identity-awareness moments of great liberators

The film Gandhi is a three-hour epic, depicting the life of Mahatma Gandhi in India. In order to lead the oppressed people of India to freedom from British rule, Gandhi adopted non-violent means such as fasting from food, vigils of prayer, peaceful marches, protests and civil disobedience. One of the reasons why Gandhi put on a loincloth and fasted from food, almost to the point of death, was to show solidarity with the Indian people, identifying with them in their physical sufferings. This finally brought independence to India. (Vima Dasan).

Martin Luther King, Jr.,
too, identified with his enslaved and maltreated people and became the voice of the voiceless in the name of God. Consequently, he was maligned, beaten, jailed, and, finally, assassinated, while he preached peace, justice,and nonviolence on behalf of the downtrodden Afro-Americans in the U. S. His heroic example definitely passes as Christian living with tens of millions of the poor and alienated Afro- Americans in the U.S. and the oppressed millions worldwide. To better appreciate his struggles against the sins of our culture, particularly of our “Christian” clergy you are invited to read Dr King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”.

Jesus’ baptism, as described in today’s Gospel, was his identification with God’s chosen people who became aware of their sinful lives and need for God’s forgiveness. (Rev. Coman Dalton).

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
Illustration C — A tiger cub finds its identity

A tiger cub finds its identity

There is an old Hindu parable about a tiger cub raised by goats. The cub learned to bleat and nibble grass and behave like a goat. One night a tiger attacked the goats, which scattered for safety. But the tiger cub kept grazing and crying like a goat without getting frightened.

The old tiger roared, “What are you doing here, living with these cowardly goats?”

He grabbed the cub by the scruff, dragged him to a pond and said: “Look how our faces reflected in water! Now you know who you are and whose you are.”

The tiger took the cub home, taught him how to catch animals, eat their meat, roar and act like a tiger. The tiger cub thus discovered his true self.

Today’s Gospel seems to suggest that Jesus received from Heaven a fresh flash of realization of Who, and Whose, He really was (His identity) and of what He was supposed to do (His mission), on the day of his baptism in the river Jordan.

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

Scripture Lessons Summarized

Fr. Tony’s unabridged edition for this section can be found by clicking on the “COMMENTARY” tab above. Feel free to include more detail if so desired.

Scripture lessons summarized: The first reading (Gen 15:1-6, 21: 1-3) Today we hear God’s promise (Chapter 15), of numerous descendants to Abraham whom Judaism, Christianity, Islam consider their father, and its fulfillment (Chapter 21) when Abraham’s wife, Sarah, gave birth to Isaac.

In the second reading, taken from the letter to the Hebrews, the sacred author further shows us the trusting faith of Abraham in the promises of God, first, in Abraham’s willingness to move his whole family to an unknown place to which God said He would lead him; second, in the way Abraham and Sarah trusted God’s power to give them a son born to them in their very old age and third, in the way Abraham’s unwavering Faith in his God enabled him to obey, without hesitation, his God’s order to sacrifice his only son.

Today’s Gospel presents the head of the Holy Family, Joseph, faithfully obeying God’s law given through Moses concerning the purification of the mother and the redeeming of the child by presenting Mary and the Baby Jesus in the Temple. The events recounted here are also found on February 2nd, the Feast of Presentation of Jesus.

Life Message

Fr. Tony’s unabridged versions can be found by clicking on the “LIFE MESSAGES” tab above. Feel free to include more detail if so desired.

(1) The baptism of Jesus reminds us of our identity. It reminds us of who we are and Whose we are.  By Baptism, we become sons and daughters of God, brothers and sisters of Jesus, members of his Church, heirs of Heaven, and temples of the Holy Spirit.

(2) Jesus’ baptism reminds us also of our mission:  a) to experience the presence of God within us, to acknowledge our own dignity as God’s children, and to appreciate the Divine Presence in others by honoring them, loving them and serving them in all humility; b) to live as the children of God in thought, word and action. c) to lead  holy and transparent Christian lives and not to desecrate  our bodies (the temples of the Holy Spirit and members of Jesus’ Body), by impurity, injustice, intolerance, jealousy or hatred; d) to accept both the good and the bad experiences of life as the gifts of a loving Heavenly Father for our growth in holiness; e) to grow daily in intimacy with God by personal and family prayers, by meditative reading of the Word of God, by participating in the Holy Mass, and by frequenting the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

(3) It is a day to thank God for the graces we have received in Baptism, to renew our Baptismal promises and to preach Christ’s “Good News” by our transparent Christian lives of love, mercy, service and forgiveness.

Explore Documentary Films (8:40) — Hawaii may be a paradise to most, but it holds a dark secret. For centuries, thousands of natives were forcibly quarantined on a remote island because of their affliction-Hansen’s Disease, more commonly known as Leprosy. Unravel the painful history of Molokai through Father Damien, who dedicated his life to helping the people who were exiled and sent to the isolated peninsula of Kalaupapa.

Fr. Tony’s Illustrations

Baptism of the Lord (B)

More of Fr. Tony’s illustrations

Identified with victims

When leprosy broke out among the people of the Hawaiian Islands in the middle of the 19th century, the government authorities responded by establishing a leper colony on the remote island of Molokai. The victims were snatched by force from their families and sent to this island to perish.

However, moved by their terrible plight, a young Belgian priest, Saint Damien De Veuster (canonized October 11, 2009), asked permission from his superiors in the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary; SaintsResource.com)  to minister to them. Straightaway, he realized that there was only one effective way to do this, and that was to go and live among them. Having got permission, he went to Molokai.

At first, he tried to minister to the lepers while maintaining a certain distance. But he soon realized that he had to live among them in order to gain their trust. As a result he contracted leprosy himself. The reaction of the lepers was immediate and wholehearted. They embraced him and took him to their hearts. He was now one of them. There was no need, no point any more, in keeping his distance. The lepers had someone who could talk with authority about leprosy, about brokenness, about rejection and public shame.

Today’s Gospel tells us how, by receiving the baptism of repentance, Jesus became identified with the sinners whom he had come to save (Flor McCarthy in Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies).

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

Called to service

The late Nelson Mandela (died 12/5/2013), will go down as one of the greatest leaders of this century. He was instrumental in ending apartheid and bringing about a multiracial society in South Africa. Mandela belonged to the Xhosa people, and grew up in the Transkei. But how did he come to play such a crucial role in the history of his country?

In his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, he tells us that all the currents of his life were taking him away from the Transkei. Yet he had no epiphany, no singular revelation, no moment of truth. He says: “A steady accumulation of insights helped me to see that my duty was to the people as a whole, not to a particular section of it. The memory of a thousand indignities produced in me anger, rebelliousness, a desire to fight the system that imprisoned my people. There was no particular day on which I said, ‘Henceforth, I will devote myself to the liberation of my people’; instead, I simply found myself doing so, and could not do otherwise” (Flor McCarthy in Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies).

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

Moment of affirmation

When the American writer, Maya Angelou, was growing up, she didn’t see her mother very much. She was brought up in large part by her grandmother, a wonderful and saintly woman. She tells how when she was twenty years old, she took a trip to San Francisco to visit her mother. It was a particularly important yet vulnerable moment in Maya’s life; she was struggling to make her way in life and groping her way towards becoming a writer. She had quite a good meeting with her mother.

When it was time to leave, her mother walked her down the hill to the waiting bus. As they parted, her mother said, “You know, I think you are the greatest woman I have ever met.”

Years later Maya could still recall that moment vividly. She said, “Waiting for the bus, I sat there thinking, ‘Just suppose she’s right. Suppose I really am somebody.’ It was one of those moments when the sky rolled back. At times like that, it’s almost as if the whole earth holds its breath.”

Maya went on to become a highly successful and respected writer and poet. She composed and delivered an inspiring poem at the inauguration of President Clinton.

Today’s Gospel tells us how Jesus heard the voice of His heavenly Father, immediately after His baptism, affirming him as “My beloved Son” (Mark Link in Sunday Homilies).

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

This is my beloved daughter, this is my beloved son”

Edward Farrell, a friend of mine, is a Catholic priest who serves an Inner City Parish in Detroit. He’s written some marvelous books. One I would especially recommend is entitled Prayer Is a Hunger. Ed is a part of a small group with whom I meet each January. I’ve told you about this group. We call it the Ecumenical Institute of Spirituality. It’s an important group for me. Though we meet only for three days once a year, sharing our spiritual pilgrimages with one another, seeking to focus our minds and hearts on some growing edge, it’s an important part of my life. Ed is a part of it too. He’s one of the most genuinely humble persons I know. Serving some of God’s forgotten people in one of Detroit’s most depressed areas, he is quietly profound. I never will forget the insight he provided me about this text. He said that Jesus went to the cross so that we too could hear the same word Jesus heard at his baptism – so that you and I can hear, “This is my beloved daughter/this is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased.” — Have you thought about it that way? Jesus’ paid the price so that for you and me, the heavens could open, and we could know the reality of God’s Spirit as a living power and presence, in our lives. Jesus wanted us to know the reality of Good News in the dark days of hopelessness and despair. The Voice which declared Jesus God’s beloved Son is still speaking in our souls, “You are Mine. You are unique and special. I am pleased with you. I love you. I love you so much that I gave My beloved Son for you. You are my beloved son, you are my beloved daughter.” (Rev. Maxie Dunnam).

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

Two sources of inspiration

Among the millions of Jews imprisoned by the Nazis in the death camps of the ’30’s & ’40’s was Victor Frankl. In spite of the horrors and the odds, he survived. Around him, next to him, each day of his ordeal, dozens, hundreds, thousands of fellow-Jews and others died. Most of them died in the ovens, of course, but there were others who died simply because they gave up hope and lost heart, overwhelmed by horror and fear and hopelessness.

Frankl survived, he said, because two forces sustained him: one was the certainty of his wife’s love. The other was an inner drive to rewrite the manuscript of a book he had completed after years of labor — which the Nazis had destroyed. Frankl’s imprisonment was lightened by daily imaginary conversations with his wife and by scrawling notes for his book on all the bits and scraps of paper he could find. Now Frankl has written eloquently of these two insights to cope with life: first, the discovery and certainty of being loved, and, second, having a clear and controlling purpose in life. [Nate Castens, Chanhassen, Minnesota, via Ecunet, Gospel Notes for Next Sunday, #2815]

Both are the messages we receive in Christian Baptism.

Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

Fr. Tony’s Life Messages

Baptism of the Lord (B)

The baptism of Jesus reminds us of our identity and mission

First, it reminds us of who we are and Whose we are.  By Baptism we become the adoptive sons and daughters of God, brothers and sisters of Jesus, members of his Church, heirs of Heaven, and temples of the Holy Spirit. We become incorporated into the Church, the Body of Christ, and made sharers in the priesthood of Christ [CCC 1279].  Hence, “Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit, and the door which gives access to the other Sacraments” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1213).  Most of us dipped the fingers of our right hands into the holy water font and blessed ourselves when we came into Church today.  Why?  This blessing is supposed to remind us of our Baptism.  And so when I bless myself with Holy Water, I should be thinking of the fact that I am a child of God; that I have been redeemed by the Cross of Christ; that I have been made a member of God’s family, and that I have been washed, forgiven, cleansed, and purified by the Blood of the Lamb.

(Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

Jesus’ baptism reminds us of our mission

a) to experience the presence of God within us, to acknowledge our own dignity as God’s children, and to appreciate the Divine Presence in others by honoring them, loving them and serving them in all humility;

b) to live as the children of God in thought, word, and action so that our Heavenly Father may say to each one of us what He said to Jesus: “You are My beloved son/daughter with whom I am well pleased.” Being “God’s child”  means that we are to let His thoughts direct our thoughts, His mind control our mind, His concerns be our concerns.  In the Church, we all share the same intimate connection with Christ; we are all brothers and sisters in Christ, and so of each other;

c) to lead a holy and transparent Christian life and not to desecrate  our bodies (the temples of the Holy Spirit and members of Jesus’ Body) by impurity, injustice, intolerance, jealousy or hatred;

d) to accept both the good and the bad experiences of life as the gifts of a loving Heavenly Father for our growth in holiness;

e) to grow daily in intimacy with God by personal and family prayers, by reading the Word of God, by participating in the Holy Mass, and by frequenting the Sacrament of Reconciliation;

f) to be co-creators with God in building up the “Kingdom of God” on earth, a  Kingdom of compassion, justice, and love, and to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.  In other words, He has called us to help others to see, through the love that we show and the help that we give, that God loves them, that He invites them, too,  to be His sons and daughters, and  that He wants to be their Helper and Strengthener through all the troubles that life in this world can bring.

(Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

This is the day for us to remember the graces we have received in Baptism and to renew our Baptismal promises

On the day of our baptism, as Pope St. John Paul II explains, “We were anointed with the Oil of Catechumens, the sign of Christ’s gentle strength, to fight against evil. Blessed water was poured over us, an effective sign of interior purification through the gift of the Holy Spirit. We were then anointed with Chrism to show that we were thus consecrated in the image of Jesus, the Father’s Anointed One. The candle lighted from the Paschal Candle was a symbol of the light of Faith which our parents and godparents must have continually safeguarded and nourished with the life-giving grace of the Spirit.” This is also a day for us to renew our Baptismal promises, consecrating ourselves to the Holy Trinity and “rejecting Satan and all his empty promises,” which our profane world is constantly offering us through its mass-media of communication. Let us ask Our Lord today to make us faithful to our Baptismal promises. Let us thank Him for the privilege of being joined to His mission of preaching the “Good News” by our transparent Christian lives of love, mercy, service, and forgiveness.

(Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)

Fr. Tony’s Commentary

Baptism of the Lord (B)

End of Christmas season: The Christmas season, celebrating the Self-revelation of God through Jesus, comes to an end with the feast of the Baptism of Our Lord. Christmas is the feast of God’s Self-revelation to the Jews, and Epiphany celebrates God’s Self-revelation to the Gentiles.

At his Baptism in the Jordan, Christ reveals himself to repentant sinners. The Baptism of the Lord Jesus is the great event celebrated by the Eastern churches on the feast of Epiphany because it is the occasion of the first public revelation of all the Three Persons in the Holy Trinity, and the official revelation of Jesus as the Son of God to the world by God the Father. Following His 40 -day fast in the wilderness under the instruction of the Holy Spirit and triple, unsuccessful, temptation by Satan, it marks the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. The liturgical season of Christmas comes to a conclusion this Sunday with the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord.

Exegetical notes: Origin of baptism: Neither John nor Jesus invented baptism.  It had been practiced for centuries among the Jews as a ritual equivalent to our Confession.  Until the fall of the Temple in 70 A.D., it was common for Jewish people to use a special pool called a Mikveh — literally a “collection of water” – as a means of spiritual cleansing, to remove spiritual impurity and sin.  Men took this bath weekly on the eve of the Sabbath, women, monthly.  Converts were also expected to take this bath before entering Judaism.  The Orthodox Jews still retain the rite. John preached that such a bath was a necessary preparation for the cataclysm that would be wrought by the coming Messiah.  Jesus transformed this continuing ritual into the one single, definitive act (receiving Baptism),  by which we begin our life of faith.  In effect, He fused His Divine Essence with the water and the ceremony.

A couple of questions:  1) Why did Jesus, the sinless Son of God, receive the “baptism of repentance” meant for sinners?  2) Why did Jesus wait for thirty years to begin his public ministry?

The strange answer for the first question, given by the apocryphal book, The Gospel according to the Hebrews, is that Jesus received the baptism of John to please his mother and relatives.  In this humble submission, we see a foreshadowing of the “baptism” of his bloody death upon the cross.  Jesus’ baptism by John was the acceptance and the beginning of his mission as God’s suffering Servant.  He allowed himself to be numbered among sinners.  Jesus submitted himself entirely to his Father’s will.  Out of love, He consented to His baptism of death for the remission of our sins.

Many Fathers of the Church explain that Jesus received baptism to identify himself with his people, who, as a result of John’s preaching, for the first time in Jewish history became aware of their sins and of their need for repentance.

The Jews had the traditional belief that only the Gentiles who embraced Jewish religion needed the baptism of repentance, for, as God’s chosen people, the Jewish race was holy.  Jesus might have been waiting for this most opportune moment to begin his public ministry.  The Fathers of the Church point out that the words which the Voice of the Heavenly Father speaks are similar to Psalm 2:17, revealing Jesus’ identity (“This is My beloved Son) and to Isaiah 42:1 referring to the suffering servant (“with whom I am well pleased“), revealing Jesus’ mission of saving mankind by His suffering and death.

The turning point: Jesus’ baptism by John was a mystical experience that Jesus felt deep within his soul at the crucial turning point of his life. The opening of the Heavens with Holy Spirit, descending as a dove upon Jesus, and the Voice declaring of Him, “This is My beloved Son with Whom I am well pleased,” are God’s revelation to mankind the Mystery that He is Triune.  The presence of the Triune God at this baptism, reveals Jesus’ true identity and mission. The Heavens’ opening also indicates that this was a moment of God’s powerful intervention in human history and in the life of His Son. His baptism by John was a very important event in the life of Jesus.

  • First, it was a moment of decision.  It marked the end of Jesus’ private life which had prepared him for his public ministry.
  • Second, it was a moment of identification with his people in their God-ward movement initiated by John the Baptist (quality of a good leader).
  • Third, it was a moment of approval.  Jesus might have been waiting for a signal of approval from his Heavenly Father, and during his baptism Jesus got this approval of Himself as the Father’s “beloved Son.”
  • Fourth, it was a moment of conviction.  At this baptism, Jesus received certainties (assurances) from heaven about His identity and the nature of His mission: a) He was the “Chosen One” and the “beloved Son of God”; b) his mission of saving mankind would be fulfilled, not by conquering the Romans, but by becoming the “suffering servant” of God, i.e., by the cross.
  • Fifth, it was a moment of equipment.  When He descended on Jesus in the form of a dove (symbol of gentleness), the Holy Spirit equipped Jesus with the power of preaching the “Good News” (that God is a loving Father, Who wants to save all human beings from their sins through His Son Jesus), in contrast to the “axe” and “fire” preaching of John the Baptist about an angry God’s judgment on sinners.
Permission granted for the use of the materials on this page for education and homiletical purposes at no charge. If used in writing, please make acknowledgment of the author, Fr. Anthony Kadavil.. For more information, contact Fr. Tony by clicking here.