During the baptism of an infant in the Church some time ago, I asked those in attendance if they could remember their social security numbers and they all said yes! I went further to ask if they could recall their birthdays and wedding anniversaries dates and they were all positive. However, when I asked about their baptism dates, nobody could recollect!
If there is a date that should always stick to our minds, it should be the date we became Christians, children of God and members of the Church, in other words, our baptism dates. Baptism, as this reflection would demonstrate, is the gateway to the Christian life, we can also say that without baptism we cannot have Christ in our lives.
The Baptism of the Sinless
Today, we celebrate the feast of the Baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ. In the Gospel narrative (Luke 3:15-16, 21-22) we learn that our Lord approached John the Baptist at the Jordan River for the latter to baptize him. One may quickly ask, why would Jesus Christ come to John for baptism since his baptism was for repentance?
If we go to the Gospel of Matthew (3:14-15), we will discover that John was unsettled about Jesus coming to him for baptism and wanted the Lord to baptize him instead. However, our Lord tells him that it is proper for him (John) to baptize him to fulfill all righteousness. The righteousness to be fulfilled is about the mission of our Lord Jesus who, though righteous, became sin for us so that through him we can become righteous (2 Cor. 5:21).
When our Lord Jesus Christ stepped into the Jordan River, he sanctified the water of baptism. He was not baptized for repentance from sin because he is sinless. He received baptism from John to demonstrate the importance of baptism. In the Gospel passage, we learn that heaven opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in the form of a dove, and the voice of the father was heard saying, “You are my beloved Son; with you, I am well pleased.” We shall derive lessons from the events of the baptism of our Lord and relate them to our baptismal life as Christians.
Baptism Opens the Gate of Heaven: The event of the baptism of Jesus Christ would be one of the few times in the Gospels we read about the heaven opening. Here, we have a strong indication that baptism opens the gate of heaven for those who have been washed clean of sin. The book of revelation tells us that nothing unclean can enter the kingdom of God (Rev. 21:27).
Baptism Activates the Presence of the Holy Trinity: The action of the Holy Trinity is evident during the baptism of the Lord. The synoptic Gospels (Matthew 3:13–17; Mark 1:9–11; Luke 3:21–23) attest to the descent of the Holy Spirit on Jesus Christ in form of a dove and the voice of God the Father proclaiming Jesus Christ as His beloved Son in whom He is well pleased. We could also recall that in the great commission, our Lord said to the eleven, “go therefore and make disciple of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19).
Baptism Saves Us
The saving power of baptism is indisputable. In the words of St. Peter (1Peter 3:21), baptism saves us not just by washing away dirt from the flesh but by an appeal to God for a good conscience through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. From this passage, St. Peter reveals to us that baptism renews us inwardly by instilling the voice of God in us namely the good conscience. The primary function of conscience as a moral faculty is to help us to know our moral obligations and to follow them.
Moving Forward: Living the Baptismal Life
When we go back to the concluding words of the great commission, our Lord Jesus Christ challenged the apostles to teach all nations to obey everything he commanded (Matt. 28:20). We understand from that passage that baptism not only brings us to a new life but also urges us to a life of obedience; that means living the baptismal life.
The baptismal life urges us to despise darkness and to walk in the light. St. Peter describes this very well where he says, “but you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people to proclaim the mighty act of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9). During the celebration of the sacrament of baptism, we could recall that we receive the light of Christ which we symbolized by a lighted candle.
The baptismal life invites us to pay attention to a new life. We are also encouraged to reject sin, the devil, and all his false promises. The baptismal life is a constant reminder to us that whoever is in Christ is a new creation, the old order has passed away, and the new has come (2 Cor. 5:17). As we celebrate the feast of the baptism of the Lord, may we pay attention to the life of regeneration which the sacrament brings into our lives and its saving powers.
Have a fabulous celebration and may God bless you always.
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