Baptism: “Baptismal Grace helps form our Christiann Identity”
Feast of the Baptism of the Lord – C
Have you ever sat and really wondered about the Baptism of Jesus by John?
John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. But Jesus was God’s Son, human like us in every way, except he was without sin. So why would Jesus present himself to John for baptism? If you are confused, then you are in good company.
The early Church was confused and somewhat uncomfortable about it. St. Matthew reports John saying to Jesus “I ought to be baptized by you, yet you come to me.” St. Luke, as we just heard, hardly mentions the baptism itself, he speaks in a past tense. Yet all the gospels as well as the Acts of the Apostles know that it happened, but they struggled to understand it. Jesus had no sin to repent of, so John’s baptism had no relevance in this regard. There is one man who can help us to understand the baptism of Jesus. Saint Maximus of Turin, a bishop who lived in the 4th century and was responsible for the spread of Christianity in northern Italy. Saint Maximus, in a sermon, gives the most understandable and realistic reason for the baptism of Jesus, he says this: “Christ is baptized, not to be made holy by the water, but to make the water holy, and by his cleansing to purify the waters which he touched. For when the Savior is washed all water for our baptism is made clean, purified at its source for the dispensing of baptismal grace to the people of future ages. Christ is the first to be baptized, then, so that Christians will follow after him with confidence.”
Jesus’s identity had already been revealed to us in Luke’s gospel when the angel told Mary at the annunciation that she would conceive and bear a child through the power of the Holy Spirit and he would be holy and would be called Son of God!
Well, our baptism gives us our identity too. Our baptism tells us that we are God’s child, sharing God’s life, beloved by the Father and called to live our lives in a way that is pleasing to our heavenly Father. So often we forget who we are and that we are God’s beloved because the secular world keeps telling us that we don’t measure up, we’re not worthwhile. We’re not beautiful, we’re not shapely, or energetic, or stylish, or as popular, or as successful, as wonderful, as happy as we should be. But do not despair! Then the ad tells us that the product will solve our problems and make us over into someone worthwhile.
Well guess what? God has already made us someone worthwhile! He first made us in his image and likeness. Then he gave us his life in Christ. If that wasn’t enough, he gave us our new identity in baptism so we would be assured of our dignity as a child of God and be recipients of his promise for eternal life with him. (Today, Dominic Paul Wilson receives this new identity in Christ and with it all the rights and privileges of the Christian faith, especially his new life in Christ).
So today, celebrate in some fashion that you have been defined forever as God’s children! May we rejoice in God’s gift of love and life given to us, and may we live up to the high dignity with which God has blessed us all.