Baptism: the Basis of Christian Life

Baptism of the Lord (Year B), Homily by Archbishop I.A. Kaigama, St. Anthony’s Parish, Yangoji, January 10, 2021.

Readings: Isaiah 55:1-11; 1 John 5:1-9; Mark 1:7-11.


This Sunday of the baptism of the Lord brings us to the end of the Christmas season, a season many wish should not end. However, life is a continuous project. No matter how comfortable we feel about certain situations, the author of life planned that life should be progressive rather than static. If you were twenty years old in 2020, now you are in your 21st year. May God bless your new age with more maturity, positive experiences and progress.


Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, I have come today to your parish of St. Anthony Yangoji, to visit and to pray with you and to encourage you to persevere in faith and not to give in to despair especially in the light of the kidnap of your parish priest, Fr. Matthew Dajo, who was detained by his captors for ten days, from 22nd November, 2020, before his release on 2nd December. We thank God that despite his travails in the hands of his abductors, he remains generally well, apart from the psychological trauma he still suffers. In the name of Jesus, he will be completely healed.

I commend you for your strength of faith, and for persevering in prayers with the conviction that he would be released. You did not allow the sad incident to demoralize you as you continued your spiritual and pastoral activities to the surprise of the perpetrators of such an evil. Whatever may be the motive of the kidnap, monetary or sheer intimidation, it should be clear to those engaged in such nefarious activities that the Catholic Church in all parts of the world brings the Good News to the poor through huge sacrifices. She complements government efforts through her selfless social, educational and medical services to the needy. Molesting the Church is molesting the needy. Whatever the Catholic Church has and does, is for the good of all, irrespective of religious, ethnic or political differences.


The act of kidnapping to say the least is criminal, sinful and degrades humanity. Left unchecked by the Nigerian authorities, this shameful and disgusting act will continue to give Nigeria a bad name and scare away visitors and investors to the country.

We pray for the release of those who are still in captivity and for the conversion of the perpetrators of this inhuman act. May Christ manifest Himself to the perpetrators of such evil actions as kidnapping, rape, killings, etc and grant them a change of heart.


Today as we celebrate the baptism of Jesus, we also renew our baptismal promises to reject sin and to totally embrace God. Baptism is a primordial sacrament, because, “unless one is born of water and the Holy Spirit, he will not enter the kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:5). The Holy Spirit at baptism confers on the baptized the grace of purification and the right of adoption (cf. Rm. 8:14-15); it is God’s seal, His mark of ownership on us (cf. Eph. 4:30). The water used at baptism is a symbol of regeneration and new birth (cf. Jn. 3:5). Therefore, “Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit, and the door which gives access to the other Sacraments” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1213).

While many Christians recall and mark their birthday, very few recall or celebrate the anniversary of their baptism. Please do so. Baptism configures the candidate to Christ to share in the mission of Christ as priest, prophet and king. It also incorporates us into the body of Christ, the Church (cf. Acts 2:37-41) and creates a bond of unity beyond ethnic, social or political affiliations. Baptismal water should be thicker than the blood of tribe.


Nominal and indifferent Christians are those who are ashamed of the cross and are fearful about submitting to the will of God. Christians gifted with material resources or academic or special gifts will always keep their Catholic faith well and do a lot to propagate it. Recently, a Nigerian Catholic female author, brought up a Catholic, spiritually nourished and educated by the Holy Mother Church, explained in an interview that she stopped attending Catholic Churches in Nigeria, because activities became “way too much about money, fundraising, and thanksgiving…. I grew up Catholic. Catholicism was very important to me…. I think of myself as agnostic and questioning. Catholicism holds you tight…‘You cannot eat before mass. You have to go to confession….’ There are so many rules. It teaches you guilt ….” I agree that solemn Church worship should not be watered down by monetary matters, but I wonder why she thinks Catholic rules amount to an infringement of her freedom. I believe she had to follow stringent rules in the development of her career. A Catholic should be fully Catholic for life, and not having the “cafeteria” mentality.


In our first reading, the Prophet Isaiah urges all who are thirsty to come to the waters in order to be revitalized and regenerated and urges us to retrace our steps back to God. John in our second reading tells us that the sanctifying and cleansing waters of baptism gives us the power “to become children of God” (Jn. 1:12); to seek the things that are above and put to death what is evil (cf. col. 3:1-5), because we have become a new creation (cf. 2 Cor. 5: 17). Our Gospel reading narrates how Jesus the author of life comes to John the Baptist to be baptized. Even though without sin, He insisted on going through the baptismal ritual cleansing of John which was only for sinners seeking repentance. He wanted to be in solidarity with humanity. He upgraded baptism from a mere religious observance to the exalted dignity of a sacrament. After His baptism, the heavens opened and a voice was heard saying: “This is my beloved son with whom I am well pleased” (Mk. 1:11).


To those of us baptized, and to those who receive the sacrament of confirmation at this Mass, we are called to let our light shine in our society full of darkness; to witness to Christ so that others may see our good works and give glory to our Father in heaven (cf. Mt 5:16). Today let our heavenly Father say the same about us, that we are His “beloved sons and daughters in whom He is well pleased” (cf. Mk. 1:11).

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