Right on the heels of the feast of the Epiphany, the Holy Roman Catholic Church celebrates the baptism of Jesus, when as the Word of God from Matthew’s gospel, chapter 3: 16 – 17 testifies that after Jesus was baptised, the heavens were opened and the Spirit of God descended on him like a dove, then the voice of God thundered saying, “This is my Son, the Beloved, in whom I am well pleased.” As I pondered on the gospel reading, I could not help but think of my own baptism when I was adopted as a son of the Most High God through Jesus his beloved SON.
But as we reflect on the baptism of Jesus, was it necessary that Jesus be baptised? I mean, he is the Son of God! Did he have to be baptised? John the Baptist had objections to it but gave in after Jesus insisted that it be done. What was Jesus showing us here? What message is He trying to convey to us? Could it be that baptism is such an important part of our Christian journey that God demonstrated its importance not just by speaking about it, but by himself being baptised. When we look at Jesus, we see that his entire life was filled with examples. Not only did he ‘talk de talk’ but he also ‘walked the walk’ as well. For example, he spoke about the greatest commandment being to love God and to love your neighbour, and he lived this. In fact, he loved us to death. He spoke about service, then he washed the feet of his disciples. He spoke about taking up our crosses daily and following him, then he took up the cross that was really yours and mine and he bore it to Calvary. Jesus leads by example! His whole life testifies to that.
So not only does he, Jesus point the way; He Is The Way! So let’s take a closer look at baptism and what the Holy Roman Catholic Church teaches about this sacrament of initiation. The Catholic Church teaches that,
Holy baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the spirit, and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons and daughters of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the church and made a sharers this in her mission: baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water in the word.
This sacrament got its name based on the central rite with which it is celebrated. To baptize means to immerse or to plunge into water. The one baptized is immersed into the death of Christ, and rises with him as a new creation – 2 Corinthians 5:17. Baptism is also called the “bath of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit” – Titus 3:5.
CCC 1213 to 1216
When we look at what the Church teaches about baptism, we begin to understand how important this sacrament is; so important that Jesus lead by example.
Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, upon whom I have put my Spirit; (The opening part of today’s first reading taken from the prophet Isaiah)
Then in today’s Gospel to celebrate the baptism of Jesus, we read, “this is what John the Baptist proclaimed: one mightier than I is coming after me, and I am not fit to kneel down and undo the straps of his sandals. I have baptized you with water but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.
It was at this time that Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John. No sooner had he come up out of the water than he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit, like a dove, descending on him. And the voice came from heaven saying, ‘you are my Son, the beloved; my favor rests on you’. (Mark 1: 7-11)
Not only are we who are joined to Christ through baptism made into new creations, but we too, in Christ Jesus, become the beloved of God. We are set apart and just as the spotlight was thrown on Jesus when he was baptized, so to the spotlight is meant to be thrown on us. Every Catholic is meant to be the light of Christ in this world. We are not meant to blend in with the rest of the world since through our baptism we have been set apart.
We’re at the start of a new year, and many of us would’ve made our new year resolutions; and likewise many of us may have already broken these resolutions. Many of us try to change things about ourselves that requires more than new year resolutions. The difficulty or the refusal to forgive, the envy that we have for a brother or sister, the fears that we have about the global financial situations, our unwillingness to attend mass regularly, our inability to give up the bottle, the challenges faced in giving up pornography, the difficulty ion giving up that relationship that you know is not good for you.
Within each of us, there are areas of all lives that we struggle with. Just as at the baptism of Jesus when he looked up and saw the dove, so too must we look up and know that our loving Father has not left us to struggle on our own with these difficulties. The Holy Spirit is there with us, ready and able to make us into the lights we were created by God to be. As we open ourselves in repentance and in a spirit of trust, the miracle of our baptism – the miracle of our re-creation – goes deeper and deeper; and as we yield more and more to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, we too will certainly hear our Father in heaven say, “you are my beloved daughter,” “you are my beloved son.”