The Baptism Of The Lord

This weekend, we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord. Jesus asks John the Baptist to baptize him in the River Jordan.  John protests, but Jesus asks him to proceed. Unlike most of us who were baptized as infants, Jesus is baptized as an adult. We know that as an infant, Mary and Joseph presented Jesus in the temple on the eighth day, in accordance with Jewish custom. In this act of being baptized by John, Jesus purified the waters of baptism for all who would follow him.

One of the most beautiful aspects of my ministry at St. Peter’s is presiding over baptisms. There is something very beautiful and very innocent about a precious infant clothed in white. There is something very beautiful about parents who present their child for baptism. Often these events are attended by many family members, who smile proudly as they watch this beautiful rite unfold. I always remind everyone in attendance that it is their job to tell this child about his or her baptism, when the child is old enough to understand.

Baptism is the gateway to our sacramental life. We must first be baptized before we can approach the table of the Lord, or receive any of the other sacraments. In baptism, we are claimed for Christ and become members of the Church.  Our souls are washed clean of original sin, and we are anointed and blessed with gifts of the Holy Spirit. The gifts will begin to flower and grow, and are stirred into flame at our Confirmation.

Jesus began his public ministry after he was baptized by John. This was not just a ritual act that Jesus permitted for the sake of those who were watching but a very real marking of his public ministry, through the calling down of the Holy Spirit. In this holy moment when Jesus came up out of the water, the Spirit descended upon him and the Father’s voice spoke a blessing over His beloved Son.

There is so much about our Catholic faith that is shrouded in mystery. We have to look through the eyes of faith to see “beyond the veil” to realms of angels and saints. I always talk about the power of the Holy Spirit in the sacrament of baptism. That same Spirit that hovered over the waters of the Jordan is present each time we encounter a sacrament.  We can also imagine that the hosts of heaven are looking down and interceding for this child, as he or she becomes the newest member of the Church and takes their place in the family of God.

So here we have this beautiful image of Jesus asking John to do something for him that Jesus didn’t really require.  John, who is unworthy to unfasten the sandal of Jesus, is the one to preside over his baptism. The voice baptizes the Word, so the Word can go forth and bear much fruit.

What does our baptism mean in our life of faith?

Baptism “hardwires” us to be what Jesus has called us to be and do what he has called us to do. At times we may feel totally inadequate and unequipped to spread the Good News. I may worry about what to say if someone challenges me on a point of faith. I may feel too shy or embarrassed to share my faith with someone I don’t know. I might worry about what others will think of me, if I share my faith. The reality is that we have been given the Spirit by virtue of our baptism. That Spirit comes down upon the gifts of bread and wine at each Mass. The Spirit is present when we go into the confessional to confess our sins and be restored and renewed. The Spirit is present in every moment of our lives. This is most especially true when we feel least equipped to act as God would have us do.

As we begin this new year of 2020, let’s open our hearts to the power of the Spirit that was given to us at our baptism.  And let us hear again the words that the Father spoke to Jesus, and speaks to each of us, “You are my beloved child, with whom I am well pleased.”

Deacon Tim


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