The Christmas season closes with the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. In a week’s time, we seem to leap ahead some 30 years from the visit of the Magi at infancy to Christ’s adulthood. Yet the events are linked as revelations of the presence of God in Jesus. In this mystery, he accepted baptism at the hand of his cousin John. Why should Jesus need to be baptized? Saint Augustine put it well: the waters did not make Christ holy; he made the waters holy, for our eventual sharing in this same mystery of new life by a sharing in the Lord’s Passion and the hope of everlasting life.
I also like Pope Emeritus Benedict’s idea: that in being baptized, Jesus clearly identifies himself with the sinfulness of humanity. His baptism foreshadows the acceptance of that sin and death that he will completely embrace in the Agony in the Garden and on the Cross. St. Paul expressed it beautifully: “Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus, Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:5-8).
In Baptism, we become members of the one Body of Christ, sharing in his death to merely human life and we rise with him to the life of grace. Each time we bless ourselves with holy water entering or leaving church, we are commemorating that moment and remembering our fundamental dignity and equality, despite all human differences, as the children of God. This is part of the meaning of the funeral pall that is placed over the casket at the end of a believer’s life – that the meaning of Baptism is being fulfilled and that God’s mercy clothes our weaknesses, imperfections, and distinctions with divine love and mercy.
Today, as we enter again the Ordinary Time of our lives, perhaps dig out Baptismal pictures – your own, your children, your grandchildren – and recall that moment of the beginning of life in the Body of Christ. Pray over the Baptismal promises:
V. Do you reject Satan?
R. I do.
V. And all his works?
R. I do.
V. And all his empty show?
R. I do.
V. Do you believe in God, the Father Almighty,
creator of heaven and earth?
R. I do.
V. Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our
Lord, who was born of the Virgin Mary, was crucified,
died, and was buried, rose from the dead, and is now
seated at the right hand of the Father?
R. I do.
V. Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the
holy Catholic Church, the communion of
saints, the forgiveness of sins, the
resurrection of the body, and life
R. I do.
V. God, the all-powerful Father of our
Lord Jesus Christ has given us a new birth
by water and the Holy Spirit, and
forgiven all our sins. May he also keep us
faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ for ever
If you are a godparent, offer a prayer for the one you sponsor and perhaps make some connection with that person if possible to assure them of your support in the journey of faith. Thank your parents – whether living or deceased – for bringing you to the life of the Church, the life of Jesus.
As Baptism usually happens for babies, it is also an encouragement to pray for respect for life as we approach the 49th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion. In those years, the loss of perhaps 60 million or more children and the many wounds to mothers, fathers, and families have scarred our nation and there is such need for healing and mercy, and a renewed commitment to protect every person made in the image of God and given the gift of life in his love. Bishop Kettler invites you to the annual Vespers for Life, to be held again at St. Anthony’s in St. Cloud the afternoon of Sunday, January 16 with a Rosary for Life at 3:30 and Vespers at 4:00. January 22 is a national day of Penance and Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children. There are many ways to show your prayerful respect for the life of those whom God has made our sisters and brothers in the human family.
May we imitate the One who has claimed us as his own, humbling ourselves and so showing forth God’s grace at work, day by day, in ways great and small.