Given that the Epiphany of the Lord was celebrated on January 8th in our part of the Catholic world, today (January 9th) marks the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Jesus’ experience of Baptism was not for the remission of any sin, but an act of God. Jesus was being totally accepted and confirmed by His Father. As He stood in the River Jordan, He was being “missioned” by his Father for the work He was about to begin. In a sense, He was getting the total endorsement of His Father for that work. Matthew 3, 13-17 tells us that, as He stepped out of the water, the heavens opened and the Spirit of God came down on Him to fill Him with all of God’s fullness: “This is my Son, the Beloved; in Him I am deeply pleased.”
Pope Francis urges us to remember that our own Baptism is like a rebirth in Christ and therefore should be celebrated “like a birthday.” On Sunday in Rome, the Holy Father said, “Baptism is like a birthday because it makes us reborn in Christian life. That is why I advise you to remember the date of your Baptism as a new birthday: that every year you will remember and thank God for the grace of becoming a Christian.”
For further reflection: We often hear a very simplistic description of the effects of the Sacrament of Baptism as “taking away original sin and making us children of God.” When we begin to truly understand the full meaning of our Baptism, however, we have to admit that it involves so much more.
Baptism is not, as is true of all the Sacraments, an isolated ritual. It takes place in the context of our whole life. Whether we are Baptized as children or as adults, what primarily is happening is that we become incorporated, ’em-bodied,’ into the Christian community. We become – not passively, but actively – members of the Body of Christ. It can never be something imposed on us against our will. That is why, for adults, there is now a long process of initiation leading up to Baptism and, hopefully, a further process of community support after the Baptism has taken place. It is why adult Baptism is now celebrated in the presence of the whole parish community at the Easter Vigil. ‘Original sin’ is taken away, not so much by some spiritual sleight of hand or by the mumbling of some magic formula. Rather, if one becomes truly incorporated into a living Christian community, the sinful influences that pervade our world become reversed by our exposure to the vision of Jesus and the lived experience of a community based on love, justice, and sharing.
Let us pray. “God in heaven, you revealed Christ as your Son by the voice that spoke over the waters of the Jordan. May all who share His life follow in His path of service to all and reflect the glory of His Kingdom, even to the ends of the earth, for He is Lord for ever and ever. Amen.”