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“The Church’s Spirit under Construction”

January 9, 2022: The First Sunday after Epiphany

The Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord Jesus Christ

Isaiah 42: 1 – 7/Psalm 29/Acts 10: 34 – 38/Matthew 3: 13 – 17

Fr. Roberto M. Jorvina

Early this New Year’s Day, I was suddenly caught to look at a figure in front of me – a very thin, disheveled, scrawny young man – sitting by the road. As I saw this face of John (not his real name), I felt the compassion of God from within me. John is a victim of HIV positive stage 4. He is at a point of despair and hopelessness. As we prayed together, I saw his body covered by scars and his skin was no longer in its luster. At age 22, what hope can we have for this young man? As I look at 2022, I asked God, “Lord, what is this that You desire for us?” This was the very first event in my life for this year.

We look at Epiphany and today is the first Sunday after Epiphany, which is also the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord. What does Epiphany really mean? We know from many that it is manifestation; but plainly stated, Epiphany is seeing the effect of Christmas in our lives which we can manifest to the world. Christmas is filled with blessings, but what is the effect of all of these in our lives so much so that I am challenge to bring to that young man, John, and to the world the hope that they need in order for them to live.

We began this Liturgical cycle with Advent, which is preparation. We went into Christmas, which is celebration. Now, we are in Epiphany, which is the manifestation.

Every Sunday that we participate in the Mass, there is something unique that happens.  This is not just a ceremony to assuage our guilt (that at least we have heard Mass). There is that supernatural ability that flows from the Altar to each and every one of us. It is important for us to recognize the value of the Sunday Mass.  Life is more than just a series of activities that we go through. Life is a mission! Each of us have a mission in our lives. It is a mission that fulfills God’s purposes for humanity, like this young man, John. There is a mission in life for us to grow into the knowledge and image of Jesus Christ.  

We are now in day 9 into 2022; 356 days left for 2022.  Let us fast forward our scene to December 31, 2022.  How do we see ourselves as we face the coming weeks and months that we can begin to realize that 2022 is the Year of the Lord? It is not the year of the pandemic; not the year of calamities. 2022 is the Year of the Lord, and it is the responsibility of the Church, you and I, to take back what the world tries to steal from us. This is the Lord’s year, and we will reach December 31, 2022 with victory waving all of these Names: Jehovah Nissi, The Lord our Banner; Jehovah Jireh; Jehovah Tsidkenu; Jehovah Jireh; Jehovah Shalom.

What does these have to do with Sundays? A lot! Because by our Lord’s work, He has designed

life in such a way that Sunday is the spring (life) for each week, and our lives flow out from this. Life is a mission, not just a series of activities, to accomplish God’s purpose. We must draw strength from God. Our meeting here every week, gathering every Sunday, whether virtually or physically, will fulfill our mission.  

Reading from Isaiah 42:5-7, Passion Translation, it says, “Here are the words of the true God, Yahweh, the one who created the starry heavens and stretched them out. He is the one who formed the earth and filled it with life. He gives breath to every person and spirit to everyone everywhere. I, Yahweh, have commissioned you in righteousness to succeed. I will take your hand in love and watch over you. I will give you as a covenant for the people, a walking-light to the nation. 7  Your mission is to open blind eyes, to set prisoners free from dark dwellings, and to open prison doors to those who are held by darkness.” This is our mission order. This is what life is all about; not about us or anything else. It is about God’s mission working through our lives. We must begin to change our perspective in lives. Lift up our hearts because when we do, we ascend to the perspective of God who sees the beginning and the end. He does not look at one day, at the pandemic, but at the beauty of what He has created and He has redeemed it with passion.

Our gospel today is a familiar story of the baptism of our Lord. It says that Jesus goes from Galilee, travels 150 kilometers in order to be baptized in Jordan. Isn’t it more practical to be baptized in Galilee so as not to travel this far by foot or by donkey? But Jesus came to fulfill God’s will not His practical idiosyncrasies.

Matthew 3:13-15 says, “Then Jesus *arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized by him.  14  But John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?”  15  But Jesus answering said to him, “Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he *permitted Him.” The agenda of Jesus was always to fulfill God’s righteousness. Day 9 of 2022, let us change our perspective: what are we doing or are going to do? Are we fulfilling God’s righteousness?

John permitted Jesus to be baptized. Jesus does not enter the water to be sanctified.  The LORD of Creation, the Creator of water, the Creator of all things, enters the water to sanctify the water, not for the water to sanctify Him.  He transforms this humble, ordinary substance into something extraordinary; empowering water now to become a sacrament, a channel of the Holy Spirit, to bring inner cleansing and transformation to those who are bathed in it. 

This is what we are called for. We are in the world not to be affected by the world, but to affect the world. We are not here to be swallowed by darkness, but to be the light in the midst of the darkness.

St. Gregory of Nyssa said, “Jesus enters the filthy, sinful waters of the world and when He comes out, He brings up and purifies the entire world with Him.” Baptism is a declaration. Christ now is baptized and we cannot detach ourselves from Christ. We are one. He is the Head; we are the Body. All the things that happened with Christ was ordained so that it can happen in our lives. We don’t go to Mass as if we are watching a movie eating popcorn. Hearing Mass is being one with Christ that Who is Christ and what happened to Him is who we are and will happen to us. Jesus’ baptism is our baptism. Jesus’ victory is our victory. Jesus’ joy is our joy. Jesus’ conquering is our conquering. We are one with Him and we cannot separate ourselves from Him.

What happened during His baptism? These two verses have so much meaning in our lives. Verses 15-17 says, “ After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him,  17  and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”

There was a three-fold action in the baptism of Jesus that happened: first, the heavens opened. Second, the Spirit as a dove came. Third, a voice came out of the heavens.

What is the connection of Jesus’ baptism in our lives? What is the connection of Jesus’ baptism to our pandemic situation now or to the life of this young man, John, who is HIV positive stage 4? To the vendor of taho in our neighborhood, to a housewife, to a jeepney driver, to a business man or an executive?

I started by saying, “Sunday is the spring from where all our lives come from.” Whether we believe it or not, this is the truth because God is the One who established this. Be vigilant, be awake, and be alert to the things of God.

After Jesus was baptized, Jesus came immediately. Immediately suggests a divine urgency, a

divine desire from Jesus as if saying, “Let us fulfill the design and the plan of My Father. I am very eager to be with those I love.” The heavens opened. Heaven is a state or a place where God’s will is perfectly fulfilled. In Jesus’ baptism it opened that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Christianity is not a fairy tale. This is what God has intended – His will in heaven, be upon earth. In fact, one commentary said, “The heavens were “torn” opened by the force of God’s love for us.” There is a Divine excitement and eagerness.

The question is: do we have the same eagerness for God and for the things of God? When was the last time we really spent time reading chapters in Scriptures? Praying for hours that we can say, “As for me, I will behold Your face in righteousness. I will be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness.”

What is the significance of heaven’s opening to us today? It means that we also now are a channel, through the Church, to open the world that is hurting. To the world like John, a HIV

positive stage four, to people who are in need, to people who are asking, “Is there hope for our lives today?” The Church says, “There is because Christ, in you, is the hope of glory!” This is not just a fantasy! This is the truth! When I looked through the eyes of John, I said, “Believe that God is working in your life!” We should believe that whatever the thing that ends or is terminal, nothing ends in defeat. In Christ, we are always in victorious. Christ says that even if we die, we live! This is Christianity.

In Isaiah 60:11 (NASB), it says, Your gates shall be open continually;(talking about the Church) day and night they shall not be shut, that people may bring to you the wealth of the

nations, with their kings led in procession.” Revelation 21:23-25 (NASB)says, “And the city (the

Church) has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb.  24  The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it.  25  In the daytime (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed.

When the heaven was opened, the Holy Spirit came. God Himself comes, anoints, empowers, and equips the human Jesus with divine energy. During Christmas, the prominent verse is in Isaiah 6, “Behold, a child was born - human; a Son was given – divine.” Divine energy comes to Jesus. Jesus was one hundred percent God, but He also was one hundred percent man. He has a human will like us that we can get angry after we get out of the Church. Jesus faced the same temptation as we did, but He decided, “Not My will, Lord, but Your will be done.”

Scriptures are the powerhouse of every believer to see the hope in our lives. Do not let the things that the world offers – social media, the news reports, gadgets – be planted in us; let the Word of God be planted in the fertile soil of our hearts and lives. We must allow the Spirit of God to transform us. Read through these Scriptures for they are powerful.

 Isaiah 42:1 (NASB), “Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.”

 Acts 10:38 (NASB) says, “You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.”

 Hebrews 1:1-3 (Living Bible) “Long ago God spoke in many different ways to our fathers through the prophets, in visions, dreams, and even face to face, [ a ]  telling them little by little about his plans.   But now in these days he has spoken to us through his Son to whom he has given everything and through whom he made the world and everything there is. God’s Son shines out with God’s glory, and all that God’s Son is and does marks him as God. He regulates the universe by the mighty power of his command. He is the one who died to cleanse us and clear our record of all sin, and then sat down in highest honor beside the great God of heaven.”

The Spirit of the Lord is upon Christ to heal the broken hearts; to set the captives free; to declare the favor of God upon His people. This is the same spirit that is in each of us today.

The heavens were opened, the Spirit came. Finally, the voice of God the Father - “This is My Beloved Son, in Whom I am well-pleased (and delighted)” In Matthew 3:17, (Passion translation), it says, “Then suddenly the voice of the Father shouted from the sky, saying, “This is My Son—the Beloved! [ d ]  My greatest delight is in him.” Pay attention Church! God says, “This is My Son,” and yet people continue to walk in fear, in uncertainty, and in hopelessness. God is shaking the heavens, “Pay attention to Him. I am well pleased with Him.”

When God prophesied to the serpent, “Someone, the seed of the woman will bruise and crush your head.” From that point on, humanity was waiting. Noah came and was thought to be the seed but died. Abraham performed great things, but he died. Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua and all the prophets from Isaiah, Jeremiah, down the line came thinking they are the seed, but nothing came. There was four hundred years of silence from the Old Testament to the New Testament. Probably, Satan and the many of the men who were trusting themselves thought the prophecy was not true until God shouted, “Pay attention! This is My Son. Listen! I am well pleased with Him.”

This is the life that He gave us. This is life. This is your mission!


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