Baptism of the Lord

Is 40:1-5, 9-11; Ti 2:11-14, 3:4-7; Lk 3:15-16, 21-22

A father is in church with three of his young children, including his five-year-old daughter. As was customary, he sat in the very front row so that the children could properly witness the service. During this particular service, the minister was performing the baptism of a tiny infant. The little five-year-old girl was taken by this, observing that he was saying something and pouring water over the infant’s head. With a quizzical look on her face, the little girl turned to her father and asked: “Daddy, why is he brainwashing that baby??”

Last Sunday we celebrated the feast of Epiphany visit of the wise men. Epiphany celebrates God’s Self-revelation to the Gentiles. In way we continue the celebration of this feast of Epiphany this week and coming week too. The Baptism of the Lord Jesus is the great event celebrated by the Eastern churches on the feast of Epiphany because it is the occasion of the first public revelation of all the Three Persons in the Holy Trinity, and the official revelation of Jesus as the Son of God to the world by God the Father. It is also an event described by all four Gospels, and it marks the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. The liturgical season of Christmas comes to a conclusion this Sunday with the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord.

God the Father spoke on the day Jesus was baptized, “This is my Son, the Beloved; my favor rests on him.” Because we are baptized we are beloved sons and daughters of God. Just as the Father said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; my favor rests on him” when Jesus was baptized, the Father said over us when we were baptized, “This is my beloved son, this is my beloved daughter.” On the day we were baptized we were changed forever. Imagine, you became a son or daughter of God on the day you were baptized, enjoying a new relationship with our Father. We don’t think enough about our baptism, this most important event in our lives. If we reflected more on who we are since baptism how different we would be, how differently we would live.

Today I would like to give a little bit catechism on this Sacrament of Baptism. The Sacrament of Baptism emphasizes a new relationship with our Father. The older rite of Baptism until Vatican II emphasized washing away original sin more. That is still part of the sacrament but now the sacrament emphasizes becoming a child of God and a member of the Church. That is why after baptism at the font four signs (explanatory rites) in the sacrament symbolize for us this new relationship with God. If you listen to the prayers accompanying these four signs (explanatory rites) they tell us about our new relationship with God.

Firstly, the child is anointed with the oil of chrism. This is the holy oil used by the bishop to anoint us on the forehead during Confirmation and to anoint the hands of a priest during his Ordination. Part of the prayer for the anointing during baptism is, “As Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet and King, so may you live always as a member of his body, sharing everlasting life.”

Secondly the white garment is put on the child. Part of the prayer accompanying putting on the white garment is, “…you have clothed yourself in Christ. See in this white garment the outward sign of your Christian dignity”.

Thirdly a lighted candle is given to the parents, a symbol of receiving the light of Christ. Part of the prayer accompanying this is, “This child of yours has been enlightened by Christ.”

Fourthly the ears and mouth of the child are blessed (see Mark 7:31-37) because they will hear the Word of God and the child will profess his/her faith

Being baptized as children would make no sense and have no meaning if as we grew up we didn’t put our baptism into effect, if we didn’t live like people who have been baptized into the Catholic Church. Our baptism when we were children would have been a nonsense if we did not decide for ourselves as we grew up that the decision made for us by our parents was in fact what we ourselves also wanted for ourselves.

Every sacrament has a lasting effect, our baptism was not just a magic formula recited over us by the priest to wash off original sin and give us a chance of getting to heaven. Baptism is like Ordination and marriage; it is something to be lived every day. When we were baptized it is as if the Father said over us as he said over Jesus, “This is my beloved son, this is my beloved daughter.” What a blessing for us to live every day knowing God is our Father and we are his sons and daughters since we were baptized. Baptism invites us to enter into this relationship with God the Father.