We are slowly but gradually and systematically returning to normality after the lockdown restrictions as far as the full liturgical cum sacramental life of the Church and our parish are concerned. Lockdown restrictions are set to ease further tomorrow, July 19, 2021.

During this period of relaxing the lockdown rules, many of our children from both our own schools and other schools have been making their first Holy Communion while Candidates for Confirmation will soon resume their instruction for reception of the Sacrament of Confirmation.

Members of the parish clergy team have been making sure that the Sacraments of Baptism and Matrimony are being administered, even during the strict lockdown restrictions.

The Sacrament of Baptism is fundamental to a full access to the sacramental life of the Church especially the sacraments of initiation. It is the opening of the door to the life of Christ and His mission on earth for all God’s children. It is the door opening to the sacramental life of the Church for the people of God.

Our Baptism links us to Jesus’ mission as the light of God’s salvation “to the ends of the earth”, as we share in the threefold ministry of Christ – to be priest, prophet and king. Our Baptism is a vocation to be a prophetic sign of God’s love in the ‘wildernesses of modern society.’

Jesus himself was baptised in order to identify with those he came to save. … And Jesus knew…that he too must identify him-self with this movement towards God”. John’s baptism was part of the people’s turning from sin and turning toward God. Jesus wanted to identify with this turning.

Jesus was God’s son, so He was sinless and there was no need for Him to receive forgiveness. John tried to refuse to baptise Jesus saying that it was he, John, who should be baptised by Jesus. … Jesus’ baptism was also an opportunity to show his authority as God confirmed He was His Son.

At His baptism a voice confirmed Jesus not only as a Son but as a beloved and pleasing one of God, because…he will carry out or do His Father’s will.

The ending part of the collect of the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord reads thus: “That we may be pleasing to God.”

Like Jesus, we shall be pleasing to God, our Father, if we are faithful to our vocation, our call to the mission of God, our Father. We shall be pleasing to God, as Jesus is, if we choose to do God’s will and not ours.

Among the Igbo people of Nigeria, fathers who are particularly proud of their sons call them “O me ka Nna ya.” This name literally translates as “one who acts or behaves like his father.”

In meaning, however, it goes deeper; it denotes a child who understands his father, obeys him and always aligns his plans and purposes to those of his father. Omekannya is the beloved of the father.

In the readings of the feast day of the Baptism of the Lord, Liturgical Year A, we are presented with a scriptural image of an Omekannaya. The first reading from the prophet Isaiah (chapter 42, verses 1 to 4 and 6 to 7) speaks of the Anointed Servant of God in whom God delights, and goes on to enumerate the works of this Servant. The second reading from the Acts of the Apostles (chapter 10 verses 34 to 38) equally points to the fact that all who do God’s will in all ages and among all peoples are always pleasing to God. In the Gospel according to Matthew (chapter 3 verses 13 to 17), Matthew presents to us the person of Jesus as the perfect Omekannaya – He is the perfect example of one who is completely and wholly pleasing to God. He is God Himself.

Jesus acts like the Father and invites us to do the same. God our Father wants us to be like Him. In the Incarnation, divinity be-came humanity to teach us how we (mere mortals) can become truly like our Father. Christ teaches us the way of love, of empathy and of solidarity. There are three things we can learn from Jesus’ Baptism: humility, obedience and solidarity. Christ accepted John’s Baptism, a continuation of the love and humility He has already displayed in His Incarnation. His coming into the world was in loving obedience to the Father, an act which the Father praised and confirmed when He said “This is my Beloved Son….” Lastly, Jesus teaches us solidarity. He clearly does not need Baptism, but nonetheless he became baptised principally in solidarity with humanity.

We are challenged this day, this week and ultimately during this period of pandemic and its lockdown restrictions to imitate Jesus in His humility, obedience and solidarity – a two-fold solidarity – first to God, through obedience and loving acceptance of God’s will in our lives, and secondly to our fellow humans through fraternal support and help whenever and wherever the need arises. As we journey during this era of the Holy Spirit, may the Holy Spirit teach and empower us to become persons pleasing to God our Father, so that, at the end of our lives here on earth, God can look on us and call us “omekannaya” for we have truly been configured to His image and likeness, once more, by the way we act and think and relate with one another. May the Lord bless His Word in our hearts through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

Fr. David Atuanya, CSSp.