Archbishop’s Teaching

Feast of the Epiphany Luke 3,15-22

Feast of the Epiphany
Homily of His Excellency Msgr Selim Sfeir
Maronite Archbishop of Cyprus

Luke 3,15-22.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Since Christmas, we have been moving from revelation to revelation. At
Christmas, it was the Good News announced to the shepherds and the
revelation in the child of the manger, followed by the revelation to the Magi
from the East.
Today, the Good News is announced to the people of Israel through the baptism
of Jesus on the banks of the Jordan River: Christ the Saviour is revealed by
John the Baptist. His mission was to prepare for this advent, simply by
claiming to be the voice crying out across the desert: "Prepare the ways of the
Lord", and urging people to be converted to receive baptism in water, thus
expressing their desire to be purified.
Now, the advent is fulfilled by the arrival of Jesus and his willingness to be
baptized like everyone else. Yet he, the eternal Son of the Father, has no sin.
He is entirely pure. So why does he ask for a conversion baptism? We find the
answer in all the Gospels: Jesus, sent by His Father, reaches out in solidarity
and compassion to our sinful world, to show it that God does not abandon it.
Jesus enters the waters of the Jordan, pure of all sin, to come out bearing the
sin of the world. Through his baptism, he takes our sin upon himself, to liberate
us from it through his ultimate baptism of blood on the cross.
This feast of the Epiphany is a theophany, a manifestation of God's love for us.
The voice of the Father and the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus concern
us personally and manifest God's love for us.

Through our baptism into Christ, we are adopted by the Father to become His
beloved children, like Jesus. To this end, we proclaim with St. Paul:
"You who were baptized into Christ have put on Christ, Alleluia".
Putting on Christ is vital if we want to remain Christians. Our lives are polluted
by pride, selfishness, resentment, violence, lies and every kind of evil. Putting
on Christ means letting His grace free us from all evil, so that we can, day after
day, welcome His eternal life and become, with Him, through Him and in Him,
children of God our Father. Our baptism brings us into the Church, which is
the Body of Christ living in the world. Being baptized in Christ is not a social
membership, but rather a commitment to live together, a daily struggle against
evil, despite our weaknesses, misguidedness and betrayals.
In our Eastern tradition, the feast of Epiphany is a blessed time to baptize
infants. For us, while baptism remains a family celebration, it should also be a
feast for the whole parish, which welcomes its children and presents them to
Christ for blessing and protection. Through baptism, our children become
members of God's family, brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ, and his disciples
to proclaim his Good News of Salvation in their family and social environment.
May this feast also be an opportunity for us to renew our baptismal
commitment, to listen again to the Word of Jesus and put it into practice in our
daily lives.

Come Lord within us, come to manifest yourself in our lives. Come Holy
Spirit, give us the grace to renew our faith in the One who has the words of
Eternal Life and who saves us. Yes, Lord, "You are our God and we are your
people, Open to us the way of life.

† Selim Sfeir
Maronite Archbishop of Cyprus

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