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

The Power of Baptism (Homily for Baptism of the Lord)

by Fr. Phil Bloom, Pastor, St. Mary of the Valley, Monroe

Bottom line: When a Christian embraces his baptism, he has an inexhaustible source of power.

Last weekend we commemorated the four Seattle Fire Fighters who gave their lives in the Pang Warehouse fire. It seemed like an odd coincidence that all four were Catholics - especially since we make up only about 15% of the local population. Mary Beth Celio (Director of Research for the Archdiocese), however, had a different perspective. As a professional researcher, she said that she was not surprised. She noted that we Catholics tend to be over-represented in areas of service: hospitals, education, police, fire departments and so on. The emphasis we place on service obviously has an impact on our young people.

There is also something deeper here, something we focus on this Sunday: the mysterious effect of baptism. The four fire fighters - Walter, Greg, James and Randy - had all received the sacrament. We see the power of baptism in our Scripture readings. The Old Testament lesson pre-figures the sacrament: Isaiah compares God's word to rain that comes down from heaven and does not return void. Baptism waters the dry earth of the human soul. St. John, in his letter, tells us that the person "begotten by God conquers the world." He does not mean that we will be Alexander the Great, but that we have the power to stand up to seductions of our culture. And Jesus himself accepted baptism - not because he needed any strength from the water, but because he wanted to give the water power.

The great saints recognized the power of baptism. St. Louis, King of France, seeing one of his subjects baptized, said, "a few moments ago you were only my son, but now you are a child of God." St. Francis Solano - a famous preacher, healer and miracle worker - knew that his power came ultimately from his baptism. After a missionary journey to the America's, he returned to his home town in Spain. He entered the church and knelt in front of the baptismal fount. In a loud voice, he said the Profession of Faith that his parents and godparents had made on his behalf.

And I am sure many of you remember the beautiful moment in 1979 when Pope John Paul returned to Wadowice, his birthplace. People in the parish had placed flowers around the fount where he was baptized in 1920. The Holy Father knelt down and reverently kissed the baptismal fount.

The sacrament of baptism has great power. This does not mean that a baptized person will automatically become a saint. Adolph Hitler and Joseph Stalin both received the sacrament. The person who turns from his baptism has a greater potential for evil. A comparison: Lilies are beautiful, but if they spoil, they give off a terrible odor. Something similar happens if a person turns against their baptism. For that reason, when parents present their child for the sacrament, we ask if they intend to raise that child in the practice of the faith.

It is beautiful when a Christian embraces their baptism. The sacrament then has inexhaustible power. To express this in a more poetic way, I would like to conclude with something that a girl in this country embroidered on a sampler. She was a German girl whose family had immigrated to Pennsylvania at the end of the eighteenth century. She sewed the words on the sampler. A sampler is a piece of cloth embroidered with a design or motto. In another homily, I quoted the words she embroidered, but they bear repeating today:

I have been baptized.
Even if I die, how can the cold grave do me harm?
I know my homeland and my inheritance, which I have with God in heaven.
After I die, there is prepared for me the joy of heaven and the robes of glory.
I have been baptized.
I stand in covenant through my baptism with my God.
So say I always with glad lips
In crosses, tribulations, troubles and needs:
I have been baptized.
I rejoice in that.
The joy remains forever.

By our baptism you and I also have a homeland, an inheritance, a covenant with God. No matter what trial or distress we face, that joy remains. When a Christian embraces his baptism, he has an inexhaustible source of power.

I have been baptized.
I rejoice in that.
The joy remains forever.

See Also:

Christ Jesus, the Voice, and the Dove
by Jacob P Varghese

Baptism of the Lord (2010)
by Fr. Charles Irvin

The Baptism of the Lord: His Beginning and Ours
by Rev. Richard J. Fairchild

Theophany - The Baptism of The Lord
by Fr. Andrew

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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