One Monk of the Order of Saint Benedict

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The Word of God and the Body of God reveal each other -- the homily worships both.

January 13, 2008

For the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, the Final Day of the Christmas Season

[Since last Monday, thirteen of the bishops from U.S. Region IX— the states of Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, and Kansas— have been on retreat here at my monastery. Today is the last day of their retreat. Their retreatmaster is Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, O.F.M.Cap., preacher to the pope and his household, and he is preaching today at our Mass. Here is a homily I wrote several years ago for this feast.]

Matthew 3:13-17
Isaiah 42:1-4,6-7
Acts 10:34-38

Today in the Liturgy, by the power of the Spirit and by the work and presence of Christ himself, we are witnesses of Christ’s baptism.
Through the power of the Spirit in the sacraments of Christ, we ourselves become appointed witnesses that the heavens opened over Christ at his baptism.
We are appointed witnesses that the Spirit in the sign of a dove descended upon Christ at his baptism.
We are appointed witnesses that the voice of heaven revealed Christ to be his beloved Son with whom he is well pleased.
We are witnesses of the Lord, not hearers of a reading.
We are witnesses, because the Lord himself is present and at work.
The first act of the apostle Peter after the ascension of the Lord was to lead the Church in choosing a new witness to take the place of Judas among the twelve in service and apostleship.
Peter told the brethren:

One of the men who have accompanied us
during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us,
beginning from his baptism by John...
one of these men must become with us
a witness to his resurrection.

Our bishops, who have succeeded the Twelve in service and apostleship— our bishops have been chosen to be companions with the Twelve in giving witness— giving testimony— about the Risen Lord from the time of his baptism by John until the day he was taken up from us.
Today, in this feast of the Lord’s Baptism, our Christian testimony is renewed, strengthened and commissioned once again.
Through the testimony and the hands of our bishops in the sacraments, the apostles have given to all of us their own personal, face to face communion in the mystery of Christ, so that today every baptized man, woman and child who celebrates this liturgy can say together with the apostles:
I witnessed the Lord Jesus rise from the waters of the Jordan.
I witnessed the heavens open above him.
I witnessed the Spirit descend upon the Lord Jesus in the sign of a dove.
I witnessed the voice of heaven declare Jesus to be his beloved Son with whom he is well pleased.

Together with John who baptized Christ, each and every one of us can say:
The Lord Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, and who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.
Now I have seen for myself and have testified that this is the Son of God. [cf. Jn. 1:29-34]

You and I are now in the presence of the revelation of the Lord at the Jordan River.
We are also approaching the presence of the Lord in his Eucharist.
We, the baptized of Christ— together with John the Baptist and the apostles— we come to the Eucharist of the Lord to testify that he is Christ the Son of God who takes away our sins.
We are here to worship and praise God in Christ, to glorify the one who is greater than all his creation, the eternally Greater One who has given us life in his overflowing goodness, and who has taken us up into himself.
We give worship, then, not only where it is due, but because it is due.
We worship God and sing his praises because we owe thanks to our creator who brought us into life out of nothing.
There is worship even in the life of God himself: the Father glorifies the Son, and the Son glorifies the Father.
Worship is the very mission of the Son of God who was born a man of flesh and blood on earth by the power of the Spirit: to glorify the Father and to bring all flesh back into divine worship.
We have been brought in by the One who takes away the sins of the world.
John the Baptist has testified to this.
The apostles testified to it.
The Church that comes from the apostles testifies to it.
You and I who are baptized testify to it.
So does Christ himself.
We turn to him in special prayer today.
Lamb of God!
You take away the sins of the world.
Have mercy on us!
Grant us peace!

That God Be Glorified in All