Fr. Bill Carroll – The Baptism of Our Lord Jesus Christ, January 7, 2024
And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Beloved Son. With you, I am well pleased.”
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“With great power comes great responsibility.” Words from Uncle Ben to the young Peter Parker. I couldn’t resist using these words on the occasion of Granger’s baptism, because, more than once, he’s come to church dressed up as Spider Man. “With great power comes great responsibility.”
First, let’s talk about the power that God is giving Granger today. For today, God is renewing a promise that can never be broken.
In the Bible, Paul often speaks about how we are “clothed with Christ” or how we “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” In Baptism, we go down into the waters with Jesus. We are filled with God’s own Spirit, so that we may share in the birthright and the blessings of Jesus. Today, Granger is being clothed with the love and power of Jesus himself. From this day forward, he belongs—“body and soul, in life and in death”—to Jesus Christ, our Savior. For, what the Father says to Jesus, so too he says to each of us, “You are my beloved child. With you, I am well pleased.”
Today, right after Granger is baptized, Mother Vivian will say these words to him, “Granger, you are sealed by the Holy Spirit in Baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever.” And then, she will seal him in Holy Oil with the sign of the Cross. Here, God is giving Granger a gift that the world can’t take away. God is marking him as someone Christ has lived and died for. God is giving Granger the gift of repentance and eternal life. God is giving him the Holy Spirit–God’s own love, alive in his heart. God is uniting Granger with Jesus in his death and resurrection–and adopting him as his beloved child.
Baptism (every baptism) reveals God’s new world of grace. And so, we see God loving Granger, before he could possibly earn or deserve it. Here, Jesus is laying claim to Granger, out of the great abundance of his love. This love is powerful. It is boundless. And it is freely given.
“With great power comes great responsibility.” And so now, let us consider our responsibilities as God’s beloved children.
The fathers of the Church sometimes ask why Jesus humbled himself to be baptized by John. Many people have asked me that over the years, because (after all), John’s baptism was a sign of repentance, and Jesus didn’t need that. The fathers answer that Jesus submitted to baptism to give us an example. Sometimes, they say that he was baptized, in order to cleanse the waters, where we are baptized.
Both answers point us to something important. The baptism of Jesus shows us the truth about our own baptism. When we are baptized, we don’t go into the waters alone. We go with Jesus. We follow Jesus into those waters. And he promises to change our lives there. In Jesus, we no longer belong to ourselves alone. He calls us to live for God–and to live for one another. In Jesus, we have renounced the self-centered ways of this world. We are called to love God with all our heart and soul and strength–and to love our neighbors as ourselves. We renounce spiritual wickedness, the destructive powers at work in this world, and our own sinful desires. And we turn to Jesus. We turn to Jesus as our Savior and Lord.
In a world filled with false gods and many distractions, we promise to stay faithful to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers. In a world filled with bad and heartbreaking news, we promise to share the Good News of Jesus. In a world filled with sin, we promise to turn back to God (to keep on turning back as often as we fall–and to keep turning back to each other). In a world filled with violence and divisions, we promise to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves. And, in a world filled with disrespect and sacrilege against the image of God, we promise to seek justice and peace among all people–and respect the dignity of every single human being.
That’s a tall order, it’s true. But it is our great responsibility and privilege. Because God has called us “into the fellowship of his Son.” He has called us to share his values. He has called us to share his priorities. He has called us to follow “in his steps.” God entrusts his purposes on earth into our frail and compromised hands. In the waters of Baptism, we have been given power to live as God’s children.
The Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord reminds us that God’s new world is possible–that the Kingdom of God has come near. It reminds us that we are God’s children now, today–and that we are being changed into the image and likeness of Jesus. Today, we seal Granger with the Holy Spirit and mark him as Christ’s very own. We promise to do all that we can to support Granger in his life in Christ. And we renew our own Baptismal Covenant.
“With great power comes great responsibility.”