Baptism of the Lord (Year C)

Is 40:1-¹,9-11; Ti 2:11-14, 3:¹-7; Luke 3:15-16,21-22

Fr. Frank Mihalic, SVD told this story that in one place on the Sepik the boys crawl out of the initiation enclosure through the jaws of a big imitation crocodile. This is symbolic for being born again into a new life…

Baptism means the same thing: entry into a new life; it also gives us a new status, just like what the initiated boys had achieved.

Today we are celebrating the Baptism of the Lord. But why was Jesus baptized? In the Jordan River, St. John is giving the baptism of repentance. The Jews seek it to obtain divine forgiveness for their sins. Is Jesus a sinner? It is very clear that the Bible tells us that Jesus is sinless and as the Eucharistic Prayer IV stated that he is a man like us in all things but sin.

The Catechism for Filipino Catholics taught to us also about the effects of baptism in a person that baptism effects cleansing from all sin and rebirth to a new life in the Spirit (CFC # 1602; CCC # 1263). CFC also added that baptism takes away all sin, both original and personal for adults, by signifying and effecting the coming of the Holy Spirit. Even St. Peter proclaimed at Pentecost in the Acts of the Apostles: “Be baptized…that your sins may be forgiven;…then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit,” (2:37ff).

When we hear the word baptism in the gospel, it can mean three things:

First, it can mean John’s baptism with water. The baptism of John was a baptism of repentance. It was a sign that people repented and wanted to wash them away. This baptism of John is only a preparation for another baptism to come and a sign that people want to begin a new life.

Second, it can mean the Baptism of Jesus with the Holy Spirit. Jesus said: “Go…baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, (Matt 28:19). Jesus’ baptism is a baptism of rebirth. It communicates to people a whole new life, that is, a share in His own life.

Third, it can mean the baptism of John of Jesus Himself. Today’s gospel describes what took place when John baptized Jesus. This John’s baptism of Jesus Himself is sometimes called a baptism of revelation. This is because God the Father reveals to us His own Son through the image of a sky open, the Spirit in a dove and a voice.

Jesus’ baptism did not mean to cleanse His sins and be reborn to a new life in the Spirit because Jesus did not sin al all! Being sinless, Jesus has no need for it, but He nevertheless chooses to join the crowd awaits their turn by the riverbank. As one priest said that in the company of sinners, Jesus participates in a ritual that emphasizes the burden of guilt and the slavery of sin. The Father approves of His action and expresses it thus: “You are my beloved son; with you I am well pleased.”

Another meaning and significance of the Baptism of Jesus can also be these as mentioned by one priest:

First, it starts His public career – His first appearance as a Servant of Yahweh

Second, it expresses solidarity with all of us, being like us in all things but sin.

Third, it is a sign of humility.

Baptism comes from the Greek word which means “to immerse, to wash, to dip.” If we want to be God’s children let us immerse ourselves in Jesus’ baptism and be ready to become God’s servants, that is, rendering service with a clean heart.

Being God’s servants means being witnesses of God here on earth. Fr. Mihalic in his book entitled A Thought for Today has a very beautiful description on how to become witnesses of God. He said that there are times in our life when we are called upon to publicly witness to our Catholic faith. We have to stand up and be counted.

We stand up and recite our creed every Sunday but we hardly ever really think of what we are saying. So many of our Christian politicians and public servants, as well as a great number of our Catholic students, give little or no evidence of this faith by what they do or say.

This does not mean that we have to go around preaching religion at work or school, nor that we should be arguing religion all the time. Everyone has a right to his/her beliefs. We must respect that. But every now and then there comes an occasion when a true Christian cannot remain silent. He/she must speak up. Here is an example of what I mean.

Some years ago, there was one government minister who went overseas to a meeting and took his secretary along. When they arrived in the new country, the boss told his secretary, “Now the first thing I want you to take care of is that every night I have a few girls to sleep with.” The secretary, a former Catholic seminarian, answered, “I am sorry, sir, but I will have nothing to do with that kind of work.” “All right,” answered his boss, “then you are fired.” And the secretary lost his job.

That is what we call witnessing: stand up for what we believe in. Do you think you would have the courage to do that?

It is not always easy to stand up for what we believe. We are going to be laughed at and made fun of. Some people will not want us around. Do you know why? Because what we say and what we do, shame them and make them uncomfortable. So we have to go.

In our times, what we need are witnesses because we have neglected this already. By becoming witnesses, people may recognize us as God’s servants as well as that Christ lives in us. When could be truly servants and children?

See Today’s Readings:  Cycle C

Back to: Baptism of the Lord (Year C)

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