Like many Catholics throughout the world, I was also baptized as an infant. I have no recollection of that special day. The late 60s were still a long way off from seeing the dawn of pocket digital cameras and camera phones. Not every family possessed a camera to record those special “Kodak moments”. Not only do I not have any memory of the day of my baptism, I don’t even have a picture to remind me or help me recreate that moment. I have pictures of my First Holy Communion, Confirmation and lots of pictures of my Ordination to the Priesthood… but none of my baptism. The only thing that I could imagine would be that my parents together with all those invited would have been happy and that there would have been a great lunch after the baptism.
Similarly, today we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. It happened long before cameras were even invented and we have no pictorial record of the event. What we have is only a written record of what took place at the river Jordan. Yet we gather in Churches all over to celebrate this event with great joy.
In the days long ago when infant mortality rates were higher, parents ensured that their newborn child was baptized as soon as possible so that the child is freed from Original sin. Even today, the connection between baptism and sin is so clear that other aspects of this sacrament are forgotten. The feast that we celebrate today brings out the other two characteristics of the Sacrament of Baptism.
The baptism that John was performing was something that Jesus did not need as he was proclaiming a baptism of repentance. Jesus is without sin and that is why John was hesitant to baptize Jesus. Yet through this event God manifests two profound realities that we often miss at the celebration of the Sacrament of Baptism. The words of the Preface of the Baptism of the Lord in today’s Eucharistic celebration makes this clear: By the Spirit’s descending in the likeness of a dove we might know that Christ your Servant has been anointed with the oil of gladness and sent to bring the good news to the poor.
Firstly, the baptism of Jesus at the Jordan was an affirmation that Christ is the anointed one. By our baptism, we have been anointed. In other words, God has chosen us to be his own. From among many people, God has set his eyes on us to be his son/daughter. It is not we that chose him, but He chose us (cf. John 15:16). By our baptism, God has made us his children so that He can love us with an everlasting and unconditional love. Doesn’t that make us feel good… to know that God chose me because I am precious in His sight!
Secondly, the baptism of Jesus marks the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry to bring the good news to the poor. Herein lies the second characteristic of our own baptism… He chose us so that He can now appoint us to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last (cf. John 15:16). Baptism also confers on us a mission to continue the mission of Christ. What is this mission then? In the days leading up to this feast, the first reading at mass was from the Epistle of John and John has been advocating to his community the message of love. Jesus very clearly put it to his disciples that the whole Law can be summed up as loving God and loving one another. This is our mission… to love God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind, and to love your neighbour as yourself (cf. Luke 10:27). Shouldn’t this make you feel good that God shares his work with you!
Our celebration today reminds us more about the fact that we have been CHOSEN and entrusted with a MISSION than the call to repentance. We may not have a picture of our baptism but our baptism marks the beginning of a relationship.
So, the next time you dip your fingers into the holy water font to make the sign of the cross when entering the church, remember your baptism… remember to give thanks to God for having chosen you to be His own… remember that He has shared his mission with you.
Feast of the Baptism of the Lord
13 January 2013