Sunday, 11 January 2015
Baptism of the Lord
I’d like to say a few words about the connection between baptism and the Holy Spirit and new beginnings.
In the Gospel text we heard how Christ initiated a new beginning: the new beginning of His public ministry, and He did this in the waters of His baptism.
That event was a new beginning that Christ began for us, not for Himself but FOR US. Christ did not need to be saved, did not need it be baptised, did not need to receive the Holy Spirit. He did this FOR US.
For us, and in us ,baptism works a new beginning: dying and rising with Christ in the baptismal waters. And whenever we do an act that renews our baptism we are renewing that new beginning yet again.
The Gospel account of the Baptism of the Lord reminds us of someone pivotal that is needed for our new beginning: the Holy Spirit.
And we can trace the activity of the Holy Spirit in creation and re-creation throughout salvation history:
The book of Genesis tells us how the Holy Spirit hovered over the face of the waters, at the creation.
And the Holy Spirit was working for the RE-creation too: The gospels tell us how the Holy Spirit came upon the Ever-Virgin Mary when she agreed to the Archangel's request for her to become the mother of God. "And the Word became flesh" -and the RE-creation of our fallen creation was begun.
The prophet Isaiah had foretold, as we heard in our first reading, foretold that the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit in the deeds of the Messiah would be one of the signs of His having come (Isa 42:1-4, 6-7; c.f. Lk 4:14ff).
Upon the cross, as He died, the Gospel tells us that Jesus "breathed forth His Spirit" (Jn 19:30) upon His embryonic Church as they stood at the foot of the Cross.
The birth of the Church, in that further act of re-creating, was enacted at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came down upon the disciples in the form of flames of fire.
But, before that, was the event in today's Gospel, the Baptism of The Lord, when the Holy Spirit came down upon Him in His humanity, to sanctify our common humanity.
We can similarly trace the activity of the Holy Spirit in our movement from sin:
First, the Holy Spirit CONVICTS us of our sins (Jn 16:8), enabling us to see what we have done wrong, enabling us to see our NEED of a new beginning.
And the coming of the Holy Spirit is initiated in BAPTISM, as was manifested in Jordan River in Christ, for our sake, and was taught by the Apostles on the day of Pentecost, “Repent and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit”(Acts 2:8).
And it is continued in CONFESSION: The Holy Spirit was given to the Apostles that they might impart the forgiveness of sin (Jn 20:22-23), as their successors (priests) still implore the coming of the Holy Spirit as they utter the words of absolution, saying “…sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins…”
The Holy Spirit enables us to resist future sin, to start again -not by our power, but by His.
The Holy Spirit enables a new beginning, again, and again, and again.
And as we have started the New Year now in January, let us recall with that our new beginning in baptism, in the Holy Spirit.