January 11, 2009 Baptism of the Lord Sunday –Cycle B
Isaiah 42:1-4.6-7; Psalm 29; Acts 10:34-38; Mark 1:7-11
The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord is a very good opportunity to remember our own Baptism. The most important part of the baptismal rite is the faith commitment that we bring to it. Our sponsors may have made this promise for us many years ago but we must now claim that commitment in our own names. And that means nothing less than a deeply personal decision to follow Christ by living in a truly unselfish manner. It also means to renounce the alluring but false suggestion of Satan that self-indulgence leads to happiness.
Let us see a little bit closer some theological aspects and life implications of the Sacrament of Baptism. We know that the Baptism as all 7 Sacraments is the visible sign of the invisible grace.
What are the visible signs in the rite of Baptism? One is certainly the water - the same sign which was used by Saint John when baptizing Jesus in the waters of Jordan. The second one are the words: “I baptize you in the name of the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit”. These words are known as the sacramental formula which was given to the disciples by Christ Himself before His Ascension. St. Matthew’s Gospel is ending with the following words:
“Then Jesus approached and said to them, "All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age."
So these two visible signs are the external symbols of the internal graces we receive in the Sacrament of Baptism. Those graces are at least four:
- childhood or divinization - by the Baptism God adopted us as His beloved children in whom He is well pleased. He instituted a new relationship between me and Him, He became my Father, and I am –since then- His child. Do I realize what my dignity as the child of God is?
- forgiveness of all sins and reception of the sanctifying grace of God. By Baptism God forgives all my sins and creates the conditions of an intimate Communion with Him. Only because of His Sanctifying Grace we are able to approach Him and to call Him “Our Father”.
- through Baptism we are buried with Christ for sins and we are born anew to a new life of freedom, as the coheirs of the Everlasting Life, as brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ.
- and finally we became the members of the People of God, the Church.
We will never be able to understand full the first three graces we receive through the Sacrament of Baptism. We will be able to see the fullness of these graces in Heaven once facing God as He is. But already here we have to be aware of the dignity we received, the dignity of the children of God, brother and sisters of His Son Jesus Christ, invited to participate in the Community of God.
But this dignity is also a source of our moral obligations. As Jesus commanded His disciples: “to baptize all nations teaching them to observe all that He have commanded …”. And what does it mean? The answer we can find in today’s second reading, where St. John says:
“In this way we know that we love the children of God when we love God and obey his commandments. For the love of God consists in this, that we keep his commandments.”
During the rite of Baptism our parents and godparents where asked some questions and they answer on our behalf. Let us remind us these questions:
Parents and Godparents, if your faith makes you ready to accept this responsibility, renew now the vows of your own baptism. Reject sin; profess your faith in Christ Jesus. This is the faith of the Church. This is the faith in which the child is about to be baptized.
Priest: Do you reject Satan?
P and G: I do
Priest: And all his works?
P and G: I do
Priest: And all his empty promises?
P and G: I do
The second part of the dialog is what we know as the Creed. We repeat it every time we participate in the Sunday Eucharist. It will be maybe necessary to reflect upon this text, so to realize fully what I believe as a baptized child of God.
But we have also to see clearly that from the fact of being baptized originate not only the graces and supernatural gifts but also some rights and obligations.
As a member of the Church, the community of saints founded by Jesus Christ I have some rights … like for example the right to other sacraments, the sacrament of the Reconciliation and the Holy Eucharist included or also for example the right for Christian burial.
But I have not to forget that as the child of God and the member of the Church I have also some obligations.
It will be absolutely incomprehensible to enjoy the rights without following the obligations. This is the meaning of the words of Saint John in today’s second reading: “the love of God consists in this, that we keep his commandments.”
Do we not know what the commandments are? We know the 10 commandments from the Old Testament, we know the 2 commandments from the New Testament, we know the 6 church commandments … we know our moral obligations, we know that our first and the most important obligation (at the same time our most priceless right) is the participation in the Holy Eucharist.
And what??? What is our answer? We are quite good in claiming our rights but at the same time we are rather forgetful or even neglectful in fulfilling our obligations.
I read somewhere a frightening diagnosis of the contemporary Christianity:
An atheist said:
"If Christians are the light of the world, somebody has forgotten to turn the switch on.
Since 1960, there has been a 560% increase in violent crimes, more than a 400% increase in illegitimate births, a quadrupling of divorce rates, tripling of children in single-parent homes. And what about the abortion and euthanasia, what about the other moral issues? The world does seem to be going to hell in a hand-basket.”
Very harsh characteristic of our Christian conditions, but is it far away from the truth?
I was baptized and what are the results of this fact in y life? The commandment of Christ: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” is continually valid and legitimate, but also challenging … me too.