Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7
Luke 3:15-16, 21-22
The people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Christ. John answered them all, saying, “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
It always seemed strange to me that Jesus would come to John to be baptized since we’ve been taught that Jesus is the sinless one. This disconnect was even clearer when John said that one greater than he is to come – Jesus. When Jesus comes to John to be baptized, his emergence from the water is not a turning from sin but is a sign of his change from his hidden life to a life of ministry. When Jesus emerges from the water a voice is heard saying, “You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.” Obviously, Jesus is not moving on from sin, but rather, publically beginning his new way of life with the presence and guidance of the Spirit.
What does our baptism mean to us? I’m sure most of us rarely think about our baptism and what it should mean in our everyday living.
“Catholic baptism involves pouring or sprinkling water over the candidate’s head. Baptism is understood, therefore, as the total annulment of the sins of one’s past and the emergence of a totally innocent person. The newly baptized person becomes a member of the church and is incorporated into the body of Christ, thus becoming empowered to lead the life of Christ.” (Catholic Catechism)
Most Catholics are baptized as infants so we have to grow into our understanding of what it means to be a baptized person. We have to learn that when the water of baptism is poured over us we will be telling the world that Jesus died for us out of his great love, was buried and lives again. Being symbolically raised up out of the water expresses God’s love for us, our new life in Christ, and our union with Him.
Hopefully, as we grow into adulthood, and even more importantly, grow into our faith, we come to realize that we have a relationship with our loving God. Just as we deepen our human relationships through presence and sharing, so also we have to spend time developing and deepening our relationship with God. Our relationship with God occurs within the Christian community. We not only are responsible for our relationship with God but with our neighbor as well. The responsibility of the baptized is to love God with all that we are and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. The way we live our lives is our way of preaching that gospel message or good news to others.
We have a clear message as baptized Christians. We are not only responsible for those close to us but for everyone with whom we come in contact. No prejudice. No racism. No preferential treatment for some and not others. The list for inclusion is long and we are not to exclude anyone. This is what a baptized Christian believes and how one acts.
As we welcomed the Christ child into our world once again at Christmas, take some time to reflect on your own baptism and what it means, or should mean to you.
How can you help yourself to be conscious of your baptismal responsibility?
How do you live your love of God and neighbor on a daily basis?