11th & 12th January 2020

posted 17 Jan 2020, 06:19 by Parish Office

Homily for the Baptism of the Lord, Year A (11 & 12/1/20)

Some years ago, before I became a priest, I remember another priest beginning
his homily with a story, which went a bit like this:
Across the road from a church, someone decided to open up a club. This club
had a bar, and it also had dancing women, and they were doing things they
shouldn’t be doing. So the parishioners got together and organised a prayer
campaign. They prayed and prayed and prayed, and then, one day, the club
burnt down. The owner was furious. “I’ll sue the lot of you”, he said. The
parishioners said, “Well, we haven’t done anything – we’re innocent”. The
owner replied: “Am I the only one who believes in the power of prayer round
We celebrate today the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Jesus didn’t need to
be baptised. He was God incarnate, and didn’t need to be cleansed of Original
Sin or have any sins washed away. He was baptised to sanctify the waters of
baptism, so that we can be baptised. He made the waters of baptism holy, so
that we can become holy. His baptism wasn’t just a “nice” event, and our
baptism isn’t supposed to be just a “nice” event that we remember with photos,
but otherwise we forget about it. Baptism is supposed to change us. In
baptism we are incorporated into Christ. We become one with Christ, and that
means that we are then supposed to allow Christ to change us, to become more
like Him. We are not to be like the fictional character Darth Vader, who was
supposed to fulfil a prophesy and instead worked against it. And if we are to
become more like Christ, then it means that we don’t just become “nice”.
Jesus wasn’t “nice”. He wasn’t a teddy bear. There were times when He
invited people to Him to seek comfort: “Come to me, all you who labour and
are overburdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). But He also had
some rather strong words to say to the Pharisees and Sadducees. He warned
people when their eternal salvation was at stake, and He drew people with love
to the Father.
Our faith has to be put into action. Martin Luther King had many admirers in
his work for justice and the elimination of racism, but he also lamented that
there were many who were happy to agree in principle, but do nothing about it,
people he labelled as the “white moderate”. He realised that, without action,
nothing would change. He said, “human progress never rolls on in wheels of
inevitability; it comes through tireless efforts of men willing to be co-workers
with God and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces

of social stagnation”. He realised that if a law is unjust, it needs to be
changed. And perhaps broken in the process. And it might even mean that the
people who break that law do so, not just because it is unjust, but also to teach
a lesson. They also must have a willingness to accept the penalty for their
actions. He said:
“I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is
unjust and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to
arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality
expressing the highest respect for law”.
We can agree in principle. In order for laws to be respected, they must be just.
They must be fair. Otherwise, they give the law a bad name and encourage
law-breaking. And in this country, if there is any law that is unjust, any law
that is, let’s call a spade a spade, if there is any law that is evil, then it is the
abortion law.
I was thinking this over a few days ago and thinking back to the effort by
William Wilberforce to abolish slavery. I’m not sure how accurate the film
Amazing Grace is, but one of the problems they had with eradicating slavery,
was that many of the people in society and in parliament, owned and traded in
slaves. How did they get them to change their minds?
Throughout the film, you see all the efforts they made. But still, there was big
opposition in parliament. How did they succeed? There was one opponent
they managed to convince, and it was his action that enabled the legislation to
get through parliament and help end the slave trade. That one enemy became a
friend, and by his actions made reparation for and undid his previous support
for slavery.
We have an uphill battle to convince people about the wrongness of abortion.
We also have the problem that there are people who feel compromised about
the issue because of their actions in the past. But we are on the side of Christ.
We are on the winning side, because we have God on our side. We can lead
people to seek forgiveness in the sacrament of reconciliation, and we can also
recruit them to serve the cause of right.
What can we do? Firstly, pray. Prayer is not the icing on the cake. It’s the
bedrock and foundation of all we do. A few days ago I received an e-mail
saying that the notorious Calthorpe Clinic in Birmingham, which has
performed abortions for many years, has finally closed, after thirty years of

people praying there. It was one of the biggest clinics in this country. It has
been hit by various problems over the years, including partial suspension of its
activities by the CQC; between March 2018 and February 2019, there were 18
incidents where patients had to be transferred to a local hospital. On 2
January, I received an e-mail saying that, after 50 years of activity, it was
finally going to close. Good riddance. Prayer works.
Secondly, we can get involved in the pro-life movement. There are many
different pro-life charities, because there are so many different dimensions and
angles to approach the issue: prayer, letter writing, signing on-line petitions,
support for desperate mothers, counselling for those affected by abortion, and
so on. Just as each of the different members of the Body of Christ has a
different function, so it is with the pro-life movement.
Thirdly, personal initiative. It may be that the issue of abortion is raised in
conversation. It might be that it is discussed on social media, or in letters to a
newspaper. Respond appropriately, with love, but also without watering down
the truth. Love and truth must go together, which isn’t always easy. Hence the
need to pray, and maybe also seek advice.
In America, there seems to be more progress than here in the UK. But there is
further good news. Our recent general election, which occurred on 12
December, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Unborn,

resulted in all of the pro-life MPs keeping their seats, whilst some of the pro-
abortion MPs either stepped down or lost them. We also had a few new MPs

being elected who said they were pro-life. There is slow, gradual change
taking place, even if it is slow and under the surface.
Today we recall the baptism of the Lord. He sanctified the waters that we
might be sanctified. We are called to be like Him, when it comes to truth, and
when it comes to compassion. In Martin Luther King’s time, racist laws
needed to be overturned, and that needed people to take action. In our own
time, abortion laws need to be overturned, and that requires us, as the Body of
Christ to play our part. Or will we just ignore the issue and hope it will go