RCL Year C Epiphany 1
Isaiah 43:1–7, Psalm 29, Acts 8:14-17, Saint Luke 3:15-17 and 21-22

At the Vestry Meeting directly after this service, I shall announce that the Deacon, as I asked him at the last meeting, has made an arrangement for the Bishop to visit this parish. The Visitation will be on the sixteenth of June, which is Trinity Sunday, a very auspicious day.

I elevate this announcement to the homily, because the Lesson today from Acts exactly concerns the circumstance of the people the Bishop is likely to Confirm that day. And that circumstance is this. The people I know that have expressed interest in Confirmation are like the new Christians in Samaria in Acts: they have been Baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, and they have not yet received the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands of the apostles or the successors to the apostles. The Lesson exactly addresses the relationship between Baptism and Confirmation. And it clearly addresses the importance of Confirmation after Baptism.

Which brings me to the Baptism of the Lord Jesus at the hands of John the Baptist that is the subject of today and today’s Gospel. In Advent we at Good Shepherd administered Baptism to an infant on a Sunday when John the Baptist was the focal point. In the homily that day I sharply distinguished the baptism of John from Christian Baptism, a distinction clear in the Gospel today. And I do not intend to go over that distinction again.

But John’s baptism of Jesus raises again, as it always does, the question why Jesus undergoes it. We can always say that Jesus does it to “fulfill all righteousness.” And today I want to specify a particular meaning of fulfilling all righteousness.

There is a sacramental principle that in participating in the sacraments, any of the sacraments, we respond to God’s call to meet God in the sacrament. We do something simple and ordinary and physical, and we respond to God’s promise to meet us there. That is why Jesus undergoes John’s baptism. He does something simple and ordinary and physical to answer God’s call to be in word and deed God’s Son. The outcome you heard in the Gospel. After the baptism, the Holy Spirit descends and the heavenly voice declares, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”[1]

And so it is with us. In the Eucharist, and in Baptism, and in Confirmation, as in any of the sacraments, we respond to God, and we should respond with an intention of our will. We respond by making a choice. You should do this every time you receive Holy Communion. You should do this today, and I give you an intention to use if you like. When you receive Holy Communion, declare to God that you intend to respond to God’s will and God’s plan for you in every circumstance in your lives. For that is what Jesus does when he receives John’s baptism. And if you declare this intention, and keep it, God’s light will become your light, and your life will be light to all of those around you.

“Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”[2]

[1] Saint Luke 3:22.

[2] Saint Matthew 5:16.