January 13, 2019
Baptism of the Lord
Our custom is to have baptisms during Mass. At the very beginning I ask the parents: “What do they ask of the Church?” The dad usually looks to mom to answer the question. If one parent replies: “baptism” I ask the other parent: “What are you hoping for or desiring for your daughter or son?” What does baptism mean to you? Water is a symbol of cleansing and of life. Water is a fundamental element of our very existence. In our Gospel today, Luke, the evangelist, is explaining the deeper meaning of the baptism of John (the Baptist) and the meaning of baptism for Jesus.
John responds to those asking if he is the Messiah: “I am baptizing with water but one mightier that I is coming.” John’s baptism is a rite, an immersion in water, symbolizing repentance and conversion. He challenges those who step forward to be baptized: “If you have an extra cloak give it to someone who is cold; if you have plenty of food give some to a person/family who is hungry; do not defraud; and do not bully!” John’s baptism prepares for membership or entry into God’s coming kingdom.
Baptism for Jesus is a public declaration or “epiphany” of the identity and mission of Jesus. The heavens open, the Holy Spirit descends as a dove and a heavenly voice underscores the special relationship of Jesus with God the Father: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
John the Baptist says Jesus will baptize you “with the Holy Spirit and fire.” Yet there is no reference in the Gospels of Jesus baptizing his disciples. But Jesus invites disciples to be baptized into his baptism! Jesus summons us into relationship with him to experience divine life. Jesus with the “Holy Spirit and fire” anoints us to embrace his mission in the world that, with him, will take us to the cross.
Baptism for us is a combination of the baptism of John and baptism for Jesus. Baptism is renunciation, conversion and confession of faith. Today we remember our own baptism and renew our confession of faith in Jesus Christ, Son of God and our commitment to the Gospel. In the holy water of baptism, we are initiated into the Church and into the mystery of God: Father Son and Holy Spirit. With the Sacred Oil of Chrism, we are anointed to continue the mission of Christ in the world and, in and with him, to inaugurate the Kingdom of God.
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