On today’s feast of the Baptism of the Lord, the Christmas season reaches its conclusion. With the Baptism of Jesus, the so called ‘hidden years’ of Jesus come to an end as his public life and ministry commence. In many ways, the Baptism in the Jordan of Jesus by John the Baptist reveals the mystery of the Christmas season. As the Church moves forward from this season of worshiping the child Jesus, we now turn our eyes to find Jesus in the infants of our time – bringing them to Christ through the baptismal font of the Church.
IN the person of Jesus, God enters the world. Through baptism, Jesus enters each of our lives; God once more takes on the flesh of our humanity.
The one who created the heavens and the earth and all within them becomes one of us. Human nature in the person of Jesus reaches its fullness as humanity is perfectly united with divinity. In baptism, our human nature, our ‘person,’ is united once more to the divine. Each of our lives reaches its fullness when we receive Christ through the faith of the Church.
At the birth of Jesus, the Word of God – which is Light and Love – became flesh. He who created the world – who lay upon the earth in a bed of straw – now walks among us. The earth receives her maker, and humbly provides him a resting place. He who made the waters of the earth – who walked upon them – today is submerged in the waters – blessing and sanctifying the work of his hands – that we might become a new creation, washed clean of sin. He who died and rose again – who is Life – now reveals Himself as the origin and redeemer of all life.
God, who is perfect love, has loved us first. This love of God is the love with which Jesus loves us. It is the love of Jesus who as bridegroom takes us, the Church, as his bride, uniting us to Himself. The love of Jesus is a self-giving love, poured out to give his Life to the world. This love of Jesus, is mirrored in the love of husband and wife, given and freely expressed, which generates new life. These children are brought to the Church, to the baptismal font, where they are united to Christ, that they may become children of God.
In the Baptism ceremony, the couple is asked: “What do you ask of the Church?” And they respond: “Baptism!” meaning “the life of Christ and faith in him.” There is no greater gift a couple gives their children than the gift of faith. This gift is further complimented when the couple demonstrates throughout the life of their children the way to live the faith by their own witness to Christ.
The Christmas season reminds us of the powerful mysteries that are mingled and mixed as they play out in the day to day life of the believer: Worldly realities with Heavenly eternity; Human Nature and Divine Nature; Natural laws and Life of Grace.
We see these mysterious ways of Jesus in his earthly ministry. He took five loaves and two fish and fed over five thousand. He changed water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana. He suspended once again the laws of nature as he walked upon the Sea of Galilee. He cured every kind of illness and brought Lazarus and the son of the widow of Nain back to life from the dead. Surely, Jesus is Life.
It is easy to adore the Son of God as a child lying in a manger. It is far more challenging and rewarding to continue to worship, adore and obey him as a man (as Christ) during his earthly ministry, preaching the truth. Yet, as Christ matured from childhood to Messiah, so must our faith mature as we go through life.
There is a prayer from the Mass which captures the manner in which the life of Christ is lived out in mature fashion of faith. It is a prayer prayed silently by the priest, just before he holds the broken host before the congregation declaring: “Behold, the Lamb of God.” Here is the prayer:
Lord Jesus, Son of the living God, who by the will of the Father and the work of the Holy Spirit, through your death and resurrection gave life to the world, free me from all my sins and from every evil, keep me always faithful to your commandments and never let me be departed from you.
In Baptism, we are united intimately with Jesus, the Son of the living God. Through the sacraments, he strengthens us to live humbly and faithfully the Father’s will in each of our lives, through the grace and inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Jesus has shared his life with us, freeing us from sin and every evil. In Christ, we have all we need to remain faithful to his teachings, and please God, to never be departed from him.
As we enter once again the Ordinary Time of the Church, may we live our faith. May we live in the knowledge and practical humility of St. John the Baptist, that we are unworthy to untie the straps of Jesus’ sandals. May we concretely live our life in Christ, by the words of the Baptist: “He must increase, I must decrease.”