The Baptism of the Lord [C]
Isa 42:1-4,6-7 + Acts 10:34-38 + Lk 3:15-16,21-22
[or Isa 40:1-5,9-11 + Ti 2:11-14;3:4-7 + Lk 3:15-16,21-22]
January 13, 2019
“You are my beloved Son; with You I am well pleased.”
Why would God choose to get baptized? He certainly didn’t need what baptism gives to a person like you or me. When you were baptized, you changed in three ways.
First of all, the Original Sin that you inherited from Adam and Eve was washed away. But this cleaning of your soul was for the sake of God putting into your soul a great gift of Himself. In other words, the second change is more important than the first. Or rather, the first serves the second, just as we go to Confession not only to have our sins washed away, but also to strengthen us to act like Christ when we leave the confessional.
So this second change is God giving you the grace—the spiritual strength—to follow Jesus through this world. As we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord today, we are celebrating a path that Jesus makes clear to us. But where does this path lead?
Jesus certainly had no need to be baptized since He had never committed any sin, and was never marked even by Original Sin. But then again, Jesus never had to die on the Cross, either. Jesus did nothing in His life on this earth because He had to. He did everything freely, and out of love. He did not hang upon the Cross because He was guilty of anything. He was the innocent Lamb of God. He allowed Himself to be nailed to the Cross in order to take away the sins of the world, including your sins and mine.
Jesus did not have to be baptized, but He was baptized in order to show us the first step on the path to salvation. Baptism is, so to speak, the “door of the Church”. When we pass through that door, we become members of the Body of Christ, and accept the responsibility of being a Christian, which in one phrase means accepting the call—the vocation—to holiness.
“Accepting the call to holiness” is what being a Christian means. Every Christian is called to be holy. Every Christian has a vocation, in fact, to be a “saint”, since the words “saint” and “holy” mean exactly the same thing. The particular vocations within the Church—Holy Matrimony, consecrated life, and Holy Orders—have to be rooted in the soil of this foundational “vocation to holiness” if they are to flower and bear great fruit.
At the age of thirty-three Jesus of Nazareth died on the Cross, opening the gates of Heaven for those who choose to enter. When you were baptized, you died, too, because death is the meaning of the Sacrament of Baptism. That’s what being submerged in water—or at least having it poured upon us—symbolizes at the celebration of Baptism. Baptism means ending an old way of life. But it also means beginning a new way of life.
As we hear the scene in today’s Gospel passage, we could ask ourselves not just, “Why was Jesus baptized?”, but also, “Why did the Holy Spirit descend upon Jesus?” and, “Why did God the Father speak from Heaven?” The answer to all these questions is the same. These things happened for us, to prompt us down a path towards true freedom in our lives. This epiphany of Jesus’ glory is not for Jesus’ sake. The Father speaks of the Beloved Son, and the Spirit descends upon the Beloved Son, so that each of us could be beloved: filled with the Holy Spirit, as we follow after Jesus by sharing directly in His mystical life of love with the Father.