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Homily of Bishop Crean – Baptism of the Lord – Sacred Heart Church, Ballymore – 7th January 2024

Baptism of the Lord

Sacred Heart Church, Ballymore

7th January 2024

My friends,

Having had the privilege of being part of a Holy See delegation to Jordan early in 2023 I got the opportunity to visit the place of Jesus’ Baptism on the banks of the Jordan. To-day it is a simple, unadorned baptismal pool in the form of a Cross with steps leading down to its centre. Because of its location on the other side of the Jordan River and the political divisions that prevail it is visited much less than other sites in the Holy Land. We were also guided to visit the cave in which John the Baptist lived while in the desert.

On a personal level the greatest impact of the visit was the fact that one stood on the ground where Jesus encountered John the Baptist. At once it was so ordinary yet so full of meaning because of the meeting of these two young men who would play such a central role in our understanding of God’s action in history. Those of us who visited that Baptismal site stood on holy ground – a scared place because of the divine / human dialogue and action that took place there.

The Baptism of the Lord was another Epiphany, another moment in which the will of the Father was made known a little more. From this moment on, through the healing and teaching of the Lord people were invited, called to a new depth of living – through saying yes to that invitation and call to be disciples. That invitation and call continues ever since, for wherever two or three gather in his name the mission goes on.

We stand on the threshold of a New Year which beckons us onward in hope and aspiration. We all yearn and hope for a full, rich and authentic life. One way we give expression to that hope and wish is by having our children baptised / christened. It was and is still for many families a genuine and sincere expression of faith in the grace of the foundational sacrament of the Christian churches across the world. Because unlike the first Christians who were primarily adults, those being baptised today are infants. That fact led to the role of the godparent coming to the fore – as one who would take special care to watch over the spiritual development of their godchild. It is a beautiful and profound expression of the love that someone would make it their special care to be guardian of the inner life of their godchild.

In order to ensure the authentic nature of the sacrament, the Church has sought to deepen people’s understanding of the sacrament by having pre-baptismal preparation. No one doubts the grace of the sacrament but it’s not magic – grace builds on nature. Unless the child is nurtured in ways of faith and prayer by those who love and care for them – it is hard if not impossible for the child to grow in the ways of the Spirit. In that sense it remains the unique and special privilege of the family “To be the first and best of teachers in the ways of faith” (Baptismal Ceremony)

Maybe this celebration of the Baptism of the Lord might prompt us to renew our personal relationship with our godchild or godparent.

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