Unfortunately, there are limited reflections on the theme of baptism among Christian preachers and teachers from year to year. There are more pieces of literature, sermons, and talks on prosperity and healing than on baptism, which is the gateway to the Christian life. We all know that it is impossible to become a Christian without receiving the sacrament of baptism; in fact, baptism makes us Christians, children of God and members of the Church.
Today, the Church celebrates the feast of the Baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ. It would be fitting to ask why our Lord went to John for baptism because the baptism of John was that of repentance for the forgiveness of sin (Luke 3:3; Acts 19:4); and the scriptures tell us that our Lord Jesus Christ is the sinless one (Hebrew 4:15; 1 Peter 2:22; 1 John 3:5).
In the Gospel Reading today (Matthew 3:13-17), John the Baptist identifies with the same confusion as to why the sinless one comes to him for baptism; “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?” Our Lord answers John and says, “Allow it now, for thus, it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness.” The next question would be, “what is this righteousness?”
It would fit for us to understand that righteousness here means what is appropriate or necessary. But why is it appropriate or necessary for the sinless one to receive the baptism of repentance? Our Lord comes to John’s baptism to show the importance of baptism, to sanctify the water of baptism and also to baptize John the baptizer through his desire to receive baptism from the Lord, remember he said, “I need to be baptized by you.”
The Power of the Holy Spirit in the Sacrament of Baptism
The water of baptism derives its power and efficacy through the impartation of the Holy Spirit. All the Readings today tell us about the action of the Holy Spirit in connection with baptism. The First Reading (Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7) gives us the exact words of God the Father during the Baptism of our Lord while adding the active presence of the Holy Spirit; “here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, upon whom I have put my spirit.”
The Second Reading (Acts 10:34-38), presents a section of Peter’s sermon in the house of Cornelius before administering the sacrament of baptism on him and his household. Peter recalled that after receiving the baptism that John preached, God anointed our Lord Jesus Christ with Holy Spirit and power.
The Gospel Reading (Matt. 3:13-17), presents the scene of the baptism of the Lord. The most intriguing part of the narrative was when our Lord came up from the water after John’s baptism. We learn that the heavens opened FOR HIM, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming upon him. Then, also comes the voice of God the Father saying, “this is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased .”
Moving Forward: Activating our baptismal Impartation
Baptism typically inaugurates our Christian life. It is also essential to note that Christian life is impossible without the active and functional presence of the Holy Spirit who helps us in our weakness (Romans 8:26). It is little wonder then that our Lord Jesus Christ instructed his disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they receive the power from on high; the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4-5).
When we receive the sacrament of baptism in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19), we at the same time receive a special seal of authority as children of God with the ability to trample upon all the powers of the enemy (Luke 10:19).
As baptized Christians, we carry within us the dynamic power of the Holy Spirit. St. Paul says that we have the Spirit of God in us (Romans 8:9). St. Peter (1Peter 2:9) has this to say about the identity of the baptized:
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
Through our baptism, we become like commissioned combatants with all the arsenals to conquer the formations and fortresses of the enemy. However, we have more privileges than the conventional combatants because our weapon of warfare is not carnal (2 Cor. 10:4); furthermore, we only need to make ourselves prayerfully available as God will do the fighting for us (Exodus 14:14; Deuteronomy 3:22).
As we celebrate the feast of the baptism of the Lord, we are invited to rethink and relive our baptism in our lives as Christians. As the heavens were opened for our Lord as he stepped out from the Jordan, in the same way, our baptism has opened up the heavens for us and through that portal, the Holy Spirit is continuously poured on us to give us the right directions in our Christian journey.
Furthermore, the voice of the Father speaks to us His beloved ones through the Word of God and the voice of God in our hearts. As the beloved sons and daughters of our heavenly Father, may the voice of the Father speak into our lives and bring that transformation that would take us to the next level of divine grace and sustenance. Have a beautiful celebration and a glorious week ahead.