Baptism of the Lord – January 9, 2022 

            As we bring the liturgical celebration of Christmas to a close today with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, the heart of the mission of Jesus emerges with great clarity.   While the image of the manger of Bethlehem still graces our cathedral for one more day, the focus of today’s gospel takes us to the Jordan River and the inauguration of Jesus’ ministry during his baptism by John with the voice of his Father proclaiming, “You are my beloved Son.  With you I am well pleased.”

Yet, for all that this great feast conveys to us about the life and ministry of Jesus, today’s liturgy is replete with powerful reminders to us not just of Jesus’ baptism – but also of our own.  The blessing of ourselves with holy water as we entered the cathedral – the signing of ourselves at the beginning of mass in the name of the triune God – along with the sprinkling rite – all point to that gateway sacrament in and through which we entered into the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

It is our relationship with Jesus, then, first initiated in baptism, that becomes the focus of what we are about today. Jesus is set apart in his baptism as the anointed one of God – as the bearer of God’s unconditional love, forgiveness and mercy. In our own baptism, the same Spirit that rested upon Jesus descended upon us, compelling us to assume the work of the gospel in imitation of Jesus and in service of our brothers and sisters. Let the words of the Father spoken to Jesus in the Jordan River speak to your hearts:  “You are my beloved Son.  You are my beloved daughter.  You – each of you!”

Today’s feast, then, both commemorates Jesus’ baptism and our own and calls us to embrace Jesus’ mission in our lives as his disciples.  In other words, baptism is not just a mile marker or sacred tradition that we ritualize as Christians.  It is a commitment on our part to reflect Jesus’ life of selfless service and unconditional love and to make it our own pattern for living.

And the life of Jesus that we consider today is no longer the sentimental image of a baby in a manger.  That image will be gone tomorrow.  The image we are called to focus upon is that of the preacher – the anointed one of God – who heals the sick – who feeds the hungry – who forgives the sinner – who lives the truth – who pursues the unlovable – and who gives his life so that others may find it – and in so doing, live lives of meaning, purpose and peace.

It’s rather interesting that in the verses immediately prior to those shared in today’s gospel that recounts Jesus’ baptism by John, John seems less concerned about encouraging his followers to be baptized and more intent upon calling them to action – to lives of service and care. “Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none.  And whoever has food should do likewise.”

In essence, the gospel reminds us that we who are recipients of Christ’s baptism are called, in turn, to be merciful – to assume not the role of judging others to determine their worthiness to participate in the life of God but, rather, the role of a selfless servant in imitation of the same Christ whose name we take as our own – witnesses of God’s love by the love we extend to others.

Earlier this year, in a reflection on baptism, Pope Francis asked a question of those gathered that I’d now pose to you.  “Who knows the exact date of your baptism?” …  Not too many of you.  Nor did many raise their hands in response to the Pope’s question.  …  Reacting to the crowds, Pope Francis continued, “Yet, it is the day on which we were saved, it is the day on which we became children of God. …  That day should be remembered each year as the day on which we became children of God.”  The Holy Father went on to explain why our baptism is so crucial.  “Our baptism changes us, gives us a hope, and empowers us to bring God’s redeeming love to all, particularly the poor, in whom we see the face of Christ. Our baptism has also gives us a share in the Church’s mission of evangelization; as disciples, we are also missionaries of Jesus’ good news.”

It is hardly by accident that on this day in which we focus upon baptism and the responsibility of all Christians to live the gospel of Jesus in an authentic and tangible manner that we offer thanks to so many of you who generously support the mission of our local Church through your gifts to our Diocesan Annual Appeal and through your lives of service and care for those who most in need.

Thank you for living your baptism so generously, particularly during these challenging times for our world and our Church.  Through your kindness, many who have been particularly burdened by the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic have found consolation and support.

May this great feast be an opportunity for us to reflect upon who we are as baptized Christians and to recommit ourselves to the work of evangelization, proclaiming the life of Jesus to a world so desperately in need of his saving grace and peace.



Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord – January 1, 2022
Commemoration of Our Lady of the Cloud, St. Matthew’s Parish, East Stroudsburg 

A few years ago, a new sculpture was installed in Saint Peter’s Square in Rome at the request of Pope Francis.  The work is entitled “Angels Unawares.”  I was privileged to experience this massive and thought provoking work during a visit to Rome in 2019.

The statute is a 20-foot-long and 12-foot-high bronze and clay work of art depicting 140 immigrants of different cultures, faiths and ethnicities.  The artist took inspiration from pictures of refugees and immigrants throughout history — from persecuted Jews to Christians fleeing the Middle East, from Poles running from communism to Central Americans escaping poverty and violence. Mary, Joseph and Jesus are also hidden among the figures.  At the center of the crowd of 140 immigrants in the depicted in the sculpture are a pair of wings directed at the sky. The angel wings hearken to the title of the artwork, “Angels Unawares,” which is taken directly from Hebrews 13:2: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”

For me, this sculpture and the message it proclaims to its viewers powerfully captures the essence of today’s celebration of the Solemnity of the Epiphany and the commemoration of Our Lady of the Cloud – which extend God’s message of salvation to all souls who have opened their hearts in trust to God.  …  In the most unlikely of lives and places, from the clouds in the heavens to the lives of faithful people like you and me, God is present – angels are among us, even if unknowingly – working miracles and turning hearts to the Lord!

The story of the magi, who finally arrive in Bethlehem with their unique and precious gifts and their rich attire is not merely a colorful tale with a happy ending.  The magi’s arrival in Bethlehem triggered the unleashing of evil and hatred aimed at the newborn king.  But it also revealed something else.  Jesus’ message of hope was no longer the exclusive possession of a few but was extended to all peoples through his self-sacrificing life and unconditional love.

While the scope of Jesus’ saving grace may seem quite reasonable to us, for many, the magi, as Gentiles, didn’t belong in Bethlehem.  They were different.  Many believed that only the chosen ones of Israel should have been recipients of God’s saving grace.  But the magi – outsiders from the East – turned that understanding of God upside down.  They were clearly welcomed and were given a special place among those who came to worship Jesus, the newborn king of the Jews.  They were welcomed primarily because they were seeking something more in life than the riches of this world.  They listened to God in their dreams and in their hearts.  And they worshipped Jesus and opened their lives to his presence.

More than ever, our world and our lives need to embrace the message of God that is proclaimed this day through the visit of the magi to Bethlehem.  Simply put, the feast of the Epiphany celebrates God’s all-inclusive love.  Sadly, however, some of the earliest followers of Jesus struggled with the growing realization that God was not their sole possession, to the exclusion of others.

Many of the first believers in Jesus attempted to place parameters around where God was able to work, with whom and how.  …  That reality seems strange, doesn’t it?  …  Unfortunately, even today, some of us act or feel much the same way at times, don’t we?  We believe that God, in Jesus, is our special possession.

Today’s feast, with the arrival of the magi in Bethlehem, offers an essential insight into our faith as Christians that we ought never forget.  All of us are saved not by our own righteousness but by the mercy and love of God won for us through the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus.  Such overwhelming love and mercy can never be limited by our determination of who is worthy of God’s saving grace.

My friends, the message of this great feast of Epiphany also reminds us that the true gifts brought to the manger in Bethlehem are not gold, frankincense and myrrh but those lasting gifts that flow from the heart of Jesus:  humble service – unconditional, sacrificial love – acceptance – and unlimited forgiveness and mercy.

These gifts, brothers and sisters, are available to all who open their lives the presence of Jesus – from those who worship with reverence and devotion – to the suffering poor who are unable to find their way to a church – to immigrants seeking a better life – to refugees fleeing from violence and war – to every soul who seeks meaning, purpose and a way forward in life through an encounter with the living God.  In these gifts, we are indeed enveloped by the Spirit of God and, even if unknowingly, find ourselves in the presence of angels.

Through the intercession of Mary, Our Lady of the Cloud, may we be blessed with the wisdom and courage to embrace not merely the story of Jesus’ birth but the example of his life, death and resurrection – at the heart of which we discover the surest means of achieving life and lasting peace.


Solemnidad de la Epifanía del Señor – 1 de enero de 2022
Conmemoración de Nuestra Señora de la Nube, Parroquia de San Mateo, East Stroudsburg

Hace unos años, se instaló una nueva escultura en la Plaza de San Pedro en Roma a petición del Papa Francisco. La obra se titula “Ángeles desprevenidos”. Tuve el privilegio de experimentar este trabajo masivo y estimulante durante una visita a Roma en 2019.

La estatua es una obra de arte de bronce y arcilla de 20 pies de largo y 12 pies de alto que representa a 140 inmigrantes de diferentes culturas, religiones y etnias. El artista se inspiró en imágenes de refugiados e inmigrantes a lo largo de la historia, desde judíos perseguidos hasta cristianos que huyen de Oriente Medio, desde polacos que huyen del comunismo hasta centroamericanos que escapan de la pobreza y la violencia. María, José y Jesús también se esconden entre las figuras. En el centro de la multitud de 140 inmigrantes representados en la escultura hay un par de alas dirigidas al cielo. Las alas de ángel hablan del título de la obra de arte, “Ángeles desprevenidos”, que se toma directamente de Hebreos 13, 2: “No dejéis de mostrar hospitalidad a los extraños, porque por ella algunos han hospedado a ángeles sin saberlo“.

Para mí, esta escultura y el mensaje que proclama a sus espectadores captura poderosamente la esencia de la celebración de hoy de la Solemnidad de la Epifanía y la conmemoración de Nuestra Señora de la Nube, que extienden el mensaje de salvación de Dios a todas las almas que han abierto sus corazones en confianza a Dios. … En las vidas y lugares menos pensados, desde las nubes en los cielos hasta las vidas de personas fieles como tú y yo, Dios está presente; los ángeles están entre nosotros, aun sin darnos cuenta, ¡obrando milagros y volviendo corazones al Señor!

La historia de los magos, que finalmente llegan a Belén con sus dones únicos y preciosos y su rico atuendo, no es simplemente un cuento colorido con un final feliz. La llegada de los magos a Belén motivó el desencadenamiento del mal y el odio contra el rey recién nacido. Pero también reveló algo más. El mensaje de esperanza de Jesús ya no es posesión exclusiva de unos pocos, sino que se extiende a todos los pueblos a través de su vida abnegada y su amor incondicional.

Si bien el alcance de la gracia salvadora de Jesús puede parecernos bastante razonable, para muchos, los magos, como gentiles, no pertenecían a Belén. Eran diferentes. Muchos creían que solo los elegidos de Israel deberían haber sido receptores de la gracia salvadora de Dios. Pero los magos, forasteros del Este, cambiaron ese entendimiento de Dios. Fueron claramente bienvenidos y se les dio un lugar especial entre los que vinieron a adorar a Jesús, el recién nacido rey de los judíos. Fueron bienvenidos principalmente porque buscaban algo más en la vida que las riquezas de este mundo. Escucharon a Dios en sus sueños y en sus corazones. Y adoraron a Jesús y abrieron sus vidas a su presencia.

Más que nunca, nuestro mundo y nuestras vidas necesitan abrazar el mensaje de Dios que se proclama este día a través de la visita de los magos a Belén. En pocas palabras, la fiesta de la Epifanía celebra el amor inclusivo de Dios. Lamentablemente, algunos de los primeros seguidores de Jesús tuvieron dificultad comprendiendo que Dios no era su única posesión, al excluir a otros.

Muchos de los primeros creyentes en Jesús intentaron establecer parámetros alrededor de dónde Dios podía trabajar, con quién y cómo. … Esa realidad parece extraña, ¿no? … Desafortunadamente, incluso hoy, algunos de nosotros actuamos o sentimos de la misma manera a veces, ¿no es así? Creemos que Dios, en Jesús, es nuestra posesión especial.

La fiesta de hoy, con la llegada de los magos a Belén, ofrece una visión esencial de nuestra fe como cristianos que nunca debemos olvidar. Todos somos salvos, no por nuestra propia justicia, sino por la misericordia y el amor de Dios que se nos ganó a través del nacimiento, la vida, la muerte y la resurrección de Jesús. Un amor y una misericordia tan abrumador nunca puede estar limitado por nuestra determinación de quién es digno de la gracia salvadora de Dios.

Amigos míos, el mensaje de esta gran fiesta de la Epifanía también nos recuerda que los verdaderos dones que se llevan al pesebre de Belén no son el oro, el incienso y la mirra, sino los dones duraderos que brotan del corazón de Jesús: el servicio humilde, el amor incondicional y sacrificado. – aceptación – y perdón y misericordia ilimitados.

Estos dones, hermanos y hermanas, están disponibles para todos los que abren sus vidas a la presencia de Jesús, desde los que adoran con reverencia y devoción, desde los pobres que sufren que no pueden encontrar el camino hacia una iglesia, los inmigrantes que buscan una vida mejor. – a los refugiados que huyen de la violencia y la guerra – a cada alma que busca sentido, propósito y un camino a seguir en la vida a través del encuentro con el Dios vivo. En estos dones, estamos envueltos por el Espíritu de Dios y, aun sin saberlo, nos encontramos en la presencia de los ángeles.

Que, por intercesión de María, Nuestra Señora de la Nube, seamos bendecidos con la sabiduría y el coraje para abrazar no sólo la historia del nacimiento de Jesús, sino el ejemplo de su vida, muerte y resurrección, en cuyo corazón descubrimos el medio más seguro de lograr la vida y la paz duradera.


Previous 2022 Homilies from Bishop Bambera


Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord January 1, 2022