By Tim Johnson
SOUTH BEND — Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades marked the feast of the Baptism of the Lord by baptizing two children during the celebration of Mass at St. Matthew Cathedral in South Bend.
“Today, on this feast of the Baptism of the Lord, I am very happy to have the opportunity during this Mass to baptize two beautiful babies — Josephine Elizabeth Burton and Giulia Lavinia Gianferrari,” Bishop Rhoades said during his homily at the Mass.
“Christ’s Spirit will come to dwell in their hearts,” Bishop Rhoades said.
The bishop, who also marked the third anniversary of his installation of bishop of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend on Jan. 13, said that the heavenly Father will say to the baptized babies as He said to Jesus and as He said to us at our Baptism: “You are my beloved children.”
“Josephine and Giulia become members today of God’s family — the holy, Catholic Church,” Bishop Rhoades said. “We pray for them, their parents, Nicholas and Katie and Filippo and Elizabeth, as well as for their godparents and families.”
Bishop Rhoades offered a blessing as he concluded his homily: “May the Lord bless you with joy! May He be with you as you raise your daughters in the way of the Lord Jesus, in the practice of the faith. By word and example, may you help your beautiful children to grow in the knowledge and love of the Lord. Today their journey of faith begins, the journey we all walk together in hope to the Promised Land of heaven.”
The Baptism of the Lord closes the Christmas season. The Church returns to Ordinary Time before marking the beginning of Lent on Wednesday, Feb. 13.
Bishop Rhoades spoke of Luke’s Gospel. He noted how the multitudes of people from all over Jerusalem and the region of Judea went through the desert wilderness to the Jordan River, some 1,200 feet below sea level, making it one of the lowest point on the face of the earth. The people gathered there to hear John the Baptist preach.
“From Jerusalem, it would take many hours to walk there, through rugged terrain and desert heat,” Bishop Rhoades said from experience — he made that journey in 1981.
The Jewish people at Jesus’ time were expecting a new Exodus. They were awaiting the Messiah who would rescue them from their oppressors just as God rescued the Israelites from the Pharaoh in Egypt, Bishop Rhoades said in his homily.
“So the fact that John the Baptist chose to baptize people in the Jordan River sent a powerful message,” Bishop Rhoades said, “that the new Exodus was about to begin. John was calling people back to the Jordan to re-enter the Promised Land. A new Joshua would lead them across the river.”
“But John explained to the people that he wasn’t the new Joshua,” Bishop Rhoades said. John the Baptist preached that he wasn’t the Messiah. He told the people that one mightier than he was coming who would baptize them with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
“Today is the feast in which we celebrate the arrival of the new Joshua at the Jordan River,” Bishop Rhoades added. “The name ‘Jesus’ is the Greek for ‘Joshua,’ a name which means ‘God saves.’ Jesus comes to lead Israel through the Jordan and to the new Promised Land. We celebrate today Jesus’ Baptism in the Jordan River.”
Although Jesus did not need a baptism of repentence, “He went into the waters like all the other people to demonstrate His solidarity with them,” Bishop Rhoades said. “He shows us that He came to unite Himself to sinners whom He had come to save. This action, at the beginning of His public ministry, foreshadows how Jesus will bear the sins of all the world on the cross at the climax of His public ministry.”
Bishop Rhoades described the scene where “heaven was opened,” the Holy Spirit came upon Jesus like a dove, and a voice from heaven said to Jesus: “You are my beloved Son; with You I am well pleased.”
“This was an amazing scene,” Bishop Rhoades exclaimed. “Heaven stands open above Jesus. He came to earth to open heaven for us. God the Father proclaims who Jesus is: His beloved Son with whom He is well pleased. And the third Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Holy Spirit, appears in bodily form like a dove. ‘The mystery of the Trinitarian God is beginning to emerge,’ Pope Benedict wrote, ‘even though its depths can be revealed only when Jesus’ journey is complete.’”
“Later, at the end of His earthly mission, Jesus will send His disciples into the world to baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Bishop Rhoades continued. “We entered into Jesus’ own Baptism when we became Christians, when we were baptized. We became beloved sons and daughters of God the Father. The Holy Spirit came upon us and gave us new life. We truly became new creations.”
Bishop Rhoades said, “With the sacrament of Baptism, we truly became a new creation, as St. Paul teaches. We received new life. God’s Spirit filled our souls and transformed us with His supernatural life.”
The best news. Delivered to your inbox.
Subscribe to our mailing list today.