January 12, 2014 — Feast of the Baptism of the Lord
Why do we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord? In fact we might ask why was it necessary for Christ to be baptized by John the Baptist? Jesus humbly submitted to Baptism as an example for us — to show us how very important this Sacrament was and is to our lives.
The readings for this feast all point to the necessity and significance of Baptism. The prophet Isaiah anticipates not only Christ’s Baptism, but what that Baptism means to each and every one of us. Recall that Isaiah was writing centuries before the Birth of Christ, yet he clearly explains what we are called to through our Baptisms. Isaiah points out that God exclaims “Here is my servant whom I uphold.”
Several times in Holy Scripture Jesus calls Himself a “servant.” (“I come to serve, not to be served.”) Our Baptismal Call — stewardship — calls us to that same kind of service. Jesus serves us every day through His love for us, His intercession in our behalf, and especially through the Eucharist. We must not forget that it is a two way street — God serves us, but we are expected to serve Him and others with whom we come in contact.
The second reading from the Acts of the Apostles quotes Peter speaking to those gathered in the house of Cornelius: “…beginning in Galilee after the Baptism that John preached, how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power.” Peter prompts us to remember that it is at the Lord’s Baptism when the Holy Trinity is revealed to us. The Father announces “This is my beloved Son with Whom I am well pleased.” The Son, Jesus Christ, is baptized and joined to the Father. The Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus: “The Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming upon him.” Saint Peter, too, asserts our Baptismal Call, pointing out that this Call applies to all of us “in every nation.” We are to “act uprightly” which means we are to pursue righteousness, which means people acting rightly in the eyes of God, which again is fulfilled by loving one another.
All reports of Jesus’ Baptism in Holy Scripture agree on the basics included in Matthew’s Gospel. In fact this reading from Matthew is the most complete account. With our own Baptism, we too received the Holy Spirit. We are called to live our lives as Jesus did. Stewardship tells us to pray that we may achieve the humility of the Lord. It is through Jesus that we renew our spirit; Our Baptismal Call is to be a light to those around us, so that God’s love can shine through us and warm and radiate love to the people in our lives.
So what is our Baptismal Call? Blessed John Paul II captured the answer when he said, “The call to holiness is rooted in Baptism… Since Christians are re-clothed in Christ Jesus and refreshed by His Spirit, they are holy. They therefore have the ability to manifest this holiness and the responsibility to bear witness to it in all they do.” Our Baptismal Call is a call to holiness, a call to love, a call to stewardship.