Welcome to Saint Mary’s Church, Harborne, Birmingham, UK.

Order of St. Augustine.

Archdiocese of Birmingham

“Before all else, live together in harmony, being of one mind and one heart on the way to God.”  St. Augustine.

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                                       Fr. Bernard O’Connor’s Homily

                                                    for 13th January

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Baptism of the Lord

Luke 3: 15-16, 21-22

Last Sunday as you know was the feast of the Epiphany of the Lord.  I used to be puzzled by one of the antiphons at morning prayer of the Church on that day, which said,

“Today the Church has been joined to her heavenly bridegroom, since Christ has purified her of her sins in the river Jordan, the Magi hasten to the royal wedding and offer gifts, the wedding guests rejoice since Christ has changed water into wine.”

We were celebrating particularly the arrival of the Magi, the wise men who had followed their star from the East, seeking as they said, ‘The infant king of the \Jews.’  But this antiphon also includes in the celebration, the Baptism of the Lord, and the wedding feast at Cana when Jesus changed water into wine.

Then I realised that the feast was the Epiphany, namely the manifestation, when the Son of God was manifested to the world.

The antiphon reminds us that there were three stages of this manifestation. 

The first was through the Magi when the infant king of the Jews was manifested to the whole world, not just to the Jewish people.  They returned to their people, telling them that they had found the Messiah of whom the prophets had spoken in the Bible, and through their people, conveyed the good news to all the peoples of the world. 

The second stage we celebrate today.  When John was baptising, the man Jesus joined the queue.  He was known to the people as the carpenter from Nazareth. 

Now he is pointed out by John as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, the one who would baptise them not with water but with the Holy Spirit, and the voice from heaven proclaimed, ‘You are my Son, the beloved.’

So he was manifested to his own, to the Jewish people.

The third stage was at the marriage feast in Cana, where he changes water into wine, to spare the bridegroom’s family the embarrassment of the wine running out.  This is described by John’s Gospel as the first of the signs of Jesus.  It was the beginning of his public ministry, when he came out in public, beginning his missionary work of preaching and of healing.

It is noteworthy that in today’s version of his baptism, after he had been baptised, after the water had been poured, he went aside to pray.  It was then, and only then that the Holy Spirit came upon him and the voice from heaven proclaimed him for who he was.

This has something to say to us all about our own baptism.

The pouring of the water of the Sacrament is not an end in itself, but rather a beginning, the beginning of a journey through life with faith in Jesus Christ.

That is true, not only for ourselves, but also for our children when we bring them as infants to be baptised.   It is not sufficient to say they have been ‘done’.  It is rather the beginning of their lives of faith.

The life of faith is described as a journey.  The Sacrament of Baptism equips us for that journey.  We receive God’s Holy Spirit, which is our guide, our inspiration, our strength.

But then we set out on our journey, which presumes movement rather than standing still, remaining rooted to where we are.  We endeavour gradually to discover the riches of our faith in Jesus Christ, to take this faith ever more into our very being, to grow in our faith and our humanity.

Our faith assures us that we are travelling in right direction on our journey, through all the ups and downs of life, even when we stumble over rough ground.

And we are provided for on the journey. 

When we fall and fail, we have the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which helps us to our feet and restores our hope and our confidence.

We have the Eucharist, the bread of life, Jesus very presence for us to

nourish us, to give us strength of spirit.

We have the Sacraments for the crucial moments of our lives, when we marry, and at the end, the Sacrament of the Sick.

There is also the gathering of the community of faith, to celebrate the Word of Scripture and the Eucharist.  This is when we come together as a community, as we are doing now.  Our very presence together is like a Sacrament.  It encourages the others present, as do their presence encourage us.

So, as we continue our journey of faith, we are not alone.  The Lord himself is always there with us, within us, always for us.

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(For Fr. John Reid’s Homilies please click this link HERE.)http://www.saintmarysharborne.org.uk/homily2.html