The Baptism of the Lord
Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11
Psalm 104:1b-2, 3-4, 24-25, 27-28, 29-30 (1)
Titus 2:11-14; 3:4-7
Luke 3:15-16, 21-22
January 13, 2019
Throughout our Christmas season, I’ve talked about the connections between the feasts and solemnities we celebrate during this season.
With our celebration of the Baptism of the Lord today, our Christmas season will draw to a close. Keeping with the connections throughout the season, I will note that the first half of today’s second reading is the same second reading that we began the Christmas season with when “The grace of God has appeared.” Jesus was born on Christmas, God appearing visible in our world.
Jesus was baptized as an adult so why celebrate it as part of the Christmas season? Christmas is about the birth of Jesus, God Incarnate. It is about birth in human terms.
We are first born in human terms. Then comes baptism. What is baptism? The baptism by John was a baptism with water for the forgiveness of sins. God cleanses the person through the waters.
John the Baptist himself tells the people that the baptism that Jesus inaugurates is more. John tells the people that Jesus “will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” Jesus’ baptism brings us “spiritual birth.”
Thus, we begin Christmas with the human birth of Jesus and conclude it with “spiritual birth” and divine confirmation of who Jesus is with the Holy Spirit coming down on him and the Father’s voice saying Jesus is his son with whom he is well pleased.
What does your baptism mean to you?
Most of us, myself included, were baptized as infants. So, we have no memory of it. We can’t attest to a difference before and after the baptism. Does that mean nothing changed?
No. While we don’t remember our own baptism, most of us, if not all, have seen someone else baptism. Is it not a joyous occasion? I think we like to see baptisms because we know in faith that it does make a difference. The one baptized is “reborn” as a child of God.
As Paul writes, Baptism is a “bath of rebirth” and “renewal by the Holy Spirit.” We do not receive grace “because of any righteous deeds” we do “but because of his mercy.”
Jesus comes to “renew the face of the earth.” He comes to fulfill what Isaiah said, “Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill shall be made low.” Jesus comes to be a “herald of glad tidings” and we are called to follow his example. Thus, we are all called to “give comfort” to the people while speaking tenderly the gospel.
Are we willing to proclaim the gospel or do we fear how people might respond?
Another way of looking at it is to ask ourselves, “do we embrace our faith to shape the world or does the world shape our faith?”
I’m afraid the latter is true for many.
For instance, what determines what is right and wrong for you? Do you rely first on what God teaches us in our faith or do you follow what the world says and expect the church to go along with it?
What shapes the priorities in your life? If you need to choose between coming to Mass and something else, what choice do you make? There are some people who need to work on Sunday. First on the list is hospital workers and emergency responders. The work they do is important and necessary. Of course, around here, two feet of snow on Sunday morning or the flu might keep us from Mass. Those are valid reasons. That doesn’t mean any reason is a good reason.
I realize it isn’t easy to change. It isn’t easy to be the one to speak up for God’s truth or to try and get events changed so they don’t occur when it is time for Church. Do you try?
Remember I didn’t go to church for a number of years. That doesn’t make it okay. In fact, with what I know now, it gives me the experience to say I should have been going. When I felt like I wasn’t getting much out of it, instead of not going, what I should have done is have gone more often and put effort into learning about the Mass and our faith so I could get more out of it.
At the entrance of every Catholic Church, you will find holy water fonts. As we enter, we dip our fingers in the holy water and bless ourselves with holy water. How many times have you done that?
Do you know why we do it? It’s one of our Catholic customs that we do over and over. How many times do we do it and never think about it at all? It is to remind us of our own baptism when we became a child of God.
Our baptismal promises call us to reject Satan and all his empty promises. Do you reject Satan and the lures of the flesh to believe in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit?
Jesus chose to die on the Cross. Do you live out your Baptism, choosing God over worldly things?