Malankara World

Sermons Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

Baptism of Jesus Christ (Denho, Denaha, Theophany, Eedo D' denho)

Sermon / Homily on St. Luke 3: 7-22; St. John 4: 1-42

It is the Spirit who Bears Witness

by Catholic Doors Ministry

Baptism of the Lord

Scripture: Is. 55:1-11; 1 Jn. 5:1-9; Mk. 1:7-11

Good morning to all of you faithful children of God who have come here today to celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ. Today's readings, rich in spiritual knowledge and understanding, echo as a "How To Guide" for us Christian to perceive the Divine Will of Our Lord.

When reviewing the readings from the Holy Scriptures, it is very important that we interpret them spiritually in relationship to their Chapters, the Book in which they were found and in context with the entire Holy Bible. This ensures that our doctrine is sound, therefore avoiding the errors of those who interpret Bible verses without its relationship to other relevant passages of the Scriptures.

Beginning with today's First Reading, [Is. 55:1-11] the children of God, those who thirsts, are called to come to the waters. What does it mean to come to the waters? "The symbol of water signifies the Holy Spirit's action in the Sacrament of Baptism, since after the invocation of the Holy Spirit it becomes the efficacious sacramental sign of new birth: just as the gestation of our first birth took place in water, so the water of Baptism truly signifies that our birth into the Divine life is given to us in the Holy Spirit. As 'by one Spirit we were all baptised,' so we are also 'made to drink of one Spirit.' [1 Cor. 12:13] Thus the Spirit is also personally the living water welling up from Christ crucified [Jn. 19:34, 1 Jn. 5:8] as its source and welling up in us to eternal life." [Jn. 4:10-4, 7:38; Ex. 17:1-6; Is. 55:1; Zech. 14:8; 1 Cor. 10:4; Rev. 21:6, 22:17] (Catechism of the Catholic Church # 694)

Therefore, the prophetic words of Isaiah were a call to those who longed for the greater spiritual things of life, to come to the Sacrament of Baptism by repenting of their sins as John the Baptist preached on the banks of the Jordan River. His words were a call to receive the Holy Spirit and to receive the new birth in Christ. Through faith in Christ and the Sacrament of Baptism, we are born again, receiving the gifts of a new heart, a new spirit and the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Then, the people were told, those who have no money to come, buy and eat. How can you buy and eat when you have no money? We are justified by the grace of God as a free gift. [Rom. 3:24, 5:15] We feed on the free grace of God that is abundantly given to us.

The prophet Isaiah continued by saying, "Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which does not satisfy?" In other words, why do you waste your energy on what is not the Living Bread but rather on worldly desires, fame, wealth and pleasures that will come to an end? Those worldly desires never satisfy anyone. The more you have, the more you want! Jesus is the Bread of Life. Whoever comes to Him will never be hungry and whoever believes in Him will never be thirsty. [Jn. 6:35, 48]

These words certainly appears to point us towards the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. And that is exactly what they are saying based on the next verse. Isaiah said, "I will make with you an everlasting covenant." Remember the words of Jesus during the Last Supper. "For this is my Blood of the Covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." [Mt. 26:28]

Therefore, from the first paragraph of today's First Reading, we are called to do three things. Firstly, we are called to repent of our sins through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Secondly, we are called to receive the Sacrament of Baptism so we may be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit and receive the indwelling Holy Spirit. Thirdly, we are called to feed on the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist as our assurance of salvation and the inheritance of the Kingdom of God.

The next verse identifies Jesus as the One Who will implement all of this when it says, "See, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples."

Then comes the call for worldwide preaching. "See, you shall call nations that you do not know, and nations that do not know you shall run to you, because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you." These words echo that salvation through Christ will not only be for the Jewish nation, but also for the Gentiles. Those of other nations have come to know the Lord God through the Jewish Nation, first through the Apostles and then through their apostolic succession.

The next line tells us to seek out the Lord while He may be found, calling upon Him while He is near us. It is a call to reject those desires and pleasures, the unrighteousness that preoccupies our worldly minds, so we may receive the mercy of God who will abundantly pardon those who come to Him in true repentance.

Towards the end of the First Reading, the Book of Isaiah tells us that our thoughts and ways are not God's ways. God is holy! To seek God, we must embrace spiritual ways. To set our minds on the flesh is death, but to set our minds on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God's law - indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But we are not in the flesh; we are in the spirit since the Spirit of God dwells in us. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to Him. [Rom. 8:7-9]

The First Reading ends by saying that the Word of God shall not return to Him empty. All these promises shall be fulfilled. As the Gospel of John tells us, the Word of God is Jesus. [Jn. 1:1] Jesus came into this world and fulfilled all of the previously mentioned words of God by instituting the Holy Catholic Church and its precious Sacraments that guide us towards our salvation in Christ.

Reviewing today's Second Reading from the First Letter of John, we are told that those who believe that Jesus is the Christ, the promised Messiah, they have been born of God. Those who love God the Father, they also love Jesus, the Son of God. Through our love for God and our obedience to His commandments, we show our love towards others who are also children of God.

To shine in the love of God, we must obey His commandments. His commandments are not so difficult to obey because when we are born of God through the Sacrament of Baptism, we receive the grace of the Heavenly Father and the power of the Holy Spirit in the Most Holy Name of Jesus so we may overcome the worldly desires and pleasures. Our victory over the world is our living faith in Christ. Our living faith is manifested by our spiritual works that are signs of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Jesus came into the world by water and Blood. He did not come by water alone but by the water and the Blood. In other words, first of all, Jesus showed us the way through His Baptism. Jesus did not get baptized because He was a sinner. "He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in His mouth." [1 Pet. 2:22] "For our sake (God the Father) made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God." [2 Cor. 5:21] As the Gospel of Mark tells us today, Jesus was baptized. He was baptized in obedience to the Father to show us the way to our new birth. As Jesus said, "Very truly, I tell you no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit." [Jn. 3:5]

Secondly, "Through Jesus, God was pleased to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the Blood of His cross." [Col. 1:20] We have been chosen by God to be "sanctified by the Spirit to be obedient to Jesus Christ and to be sprinkled with His Blood." [1 Pet. 1:2] If we walk in the light as Jesus Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the Blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sins. [1 Jn. 1:7] Jesus Christ loves us and freed us from our sins by His Blood. [Rev. 1:5]

The second reading ends by telling us that, "The Spirit is the one who testifies, for the Spirit is the truth. There are three that testify; the Spirit and the water and the Blood, and these three agree."

In other words, it is the Holy Spirit who bears witness with our spirit, that we are children of God. [Rom. 8:16] The Holy Spirit bears witness that we have received the Sacrament of Baptism through faith in Christ as the spiritual law of God requires. This is further affirmed by the Blood of Christ who, through the Sacrament of Confession, washes us of our sins so we may be righteous in the eyes of God. All three are mandatory, the power of the Holy Spirit, our new birth through the Church Sacrament of Baptism and the Blood of Christ through the Sacrament of Confession that maintain our righteousness.

When Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit descended upon Him. We are told of this event in the Holy Bible in order that we may know that it is through the Sacrament of Baptism that the Holy Spirit descends upon us in order to transform us into new creations as children of God. Then, He begins the purifying process that sanctifies us to become in the likeness of Jesus.

Before closing today's sermon, I would like to touch on the word 'faith' for a moment. When it is said, 'our victory that conquers the world' is our 'faith,' this is a reference to our 'living faith'. As today's readings taught us, the Sacrament of Baptism is insufficient to save us. We must live our faith in Christ by obeying the commandments of God. This is achieved by shining in our love towards others as lights in the world. This is why we are told that, "Faith without works is dead." [Jas. 2:26] It is insufficient to have faith in Christ to be saved. To be saved, we must practice what we believe in, the teachings of Jesus Christ.

As we continue with the celebration of the Holy Mass, let us thank the Lord Jesus for having showed us the way to salvation that is obtained through His Blood. Let us always remember to call upon the indwelling Spirit who is our spiritual strength to overcome the desires and pleasures of this world.

See Also:

Seven Teachings about Baptism (Homily for Baptism of Our Lord)
by Fr. Phil Bloom

Feast of the Baptism of the Lord
Homily by Pope John Paul II

Feast of Baptism of the Lord
Homily by Pope Benedict XVI, Jan 7, 2007

Pope's Homily on the Baptism of the Lord
by Pope Benedict XVI, Jan. 9, 2011

Sermons, Bible Commentaries and Bible Analyses for Denaha (the Baptism of Jesus Christ)

The Sacrament of Baptism

The Sacrament of Repentance

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