Dear Believers in the Christ,
Today, we celebrate The Baptism of the Lord. His cousin, John, baptized Jesus in the Jordan River. This baptism initiated Jesus into his public ministry. After this moment in the Jordan, Jesus enters the lives of people to bring healing, forgiveness and peace into people’s lives. Jesus becomes the living embodiment of love, the love only the Father can give from his Kingdom of Heaven.
Most people in the Church were baptized as infants. We never understood this transformation, this new life. We have relied on others to witness on our behalf such a transformation. This feast is an opportunity for us to live the mystery of our own baptism. Jesus’ life, his passion, death and resurrection, become the life into which we are initiated. We belong to him because of our baptism. We are God’s adopted children. We are rich in the presence of Christ Jesus through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in our baptism. God’s love is thoroughly within our lives, our bodies and our souls.
Because we belong to God in baptism, then we also belong in the Church. We belong to one another. In baptism, we understand our relationship with one another. The waters of baptism in many ways become thicker and more relational than the blood of our relatives. The unique connection we have within baptism connects us to the lives and needs of other people.
Baptism is not a private sacrament. Baptism is not a sacrament of privilege. Baptism is a radical understanding that we belong to Christ’s redeeming love and to the real life world of the Church. We belong to one another. This is why people in the early Church shared their gifts, their money and their goods. Baptism is an equalizer. Baptism does not put one person on a pedestal.
This year, we celebrate the Lord’s baptism without water! During the pandemic, we may have forgotten how much we belong to one another. No matter how much we have been afraid to attend Mass or feel just lonely, we know that through our baptism, we belong to the Church and to one another. This year, we rely on the Holy Spirit to engage our hearts and to heal our misfortunes and our fears of being together in worship. Baptism is engagement with the Holy Spirit to compel us to move into the world to provide peace, healing and kindness.
There are several items used in the ritual of baptism that become images for our Christian lives. Of course, water, becomes an image of washing, cleansing from sin, and initiation into the lives of the community. In water, the old has been washed away. The Light of Christ, a candle given to godparents, becomes an image of life, of renewal and hope for the child or adult who is baptized. The light reveals Christ when darkness covers our path. The white garment is also given to a child. This garment may be the white gown or clothing worn. This garment, however, is really important. It signifies that we are clothed in Christ Jesus. The garment found in the empty tomb becomes the garment we all wear. This garment is revealed again in the pall at our funerals, that we are all one in Christ. We are one in the Mystery of Heaven here on earth.
In today’s gospel, Mark 1:7-11 we hear the voice of God the Father, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” This is a profound sentence for every Christian under heaven. We are sons and daughters of our loving God. We belong to Him. We are cherished and given new life in Christ Jesus. Pray this sentence with love this week. Pray this sentence because our lives depend upon such grace and tenderness.
God give you peace,
Fr. Ron Raab, CSC, Pastor