Baptism of Christ the Lord. Lk 3,15-16.21-22
Baptismal Commitments (Luke 3:15-16, 21-22)
Actively live out your roles and responsibilities from the Sacrament of Baptism.Let us try to answer a few initial questions. Can a medical student sign a prescription as a physician? Can a military academy student be a general? Can a theology student administer the sacraments or celebrate the Holy Mass’s holiest sacrifice? Can a student of education be an associate professor or professor? Even older students of religion know that baptism is the first and most necessary sacrament, without which we cannot receive the other sacraments. Thus, the answers to the questions are clear to us. A prescription can only be written and signed by a doctor, a professional who has taken an oath to protect the patient’s life. Although the boys can play generals, who would put a non-expert in command among us? And even more so in a time of war? The mission to administer the sacraments and celebrate the Eucharist can only be carried out by a commissioned minister of the Church, who receives the power by ordination from the bishop. If someone wants to attain the title of associate professor or professor, he must prove his qualities.
And what is our relationship to the Sacrament of Baptism, which we have all received? By baptism, we have freely and voluntarily, through our parents and godparents and in the renewal of our baptismal vows and person, declared that we want to profess our faith and live by it. We have become experts. Am I an expert appropriate to my age and position in faith and morals? By baptism, we have become responsible and have assumed duties and obligations. Do I know, fulfill, and responsibly uphold the responsibilities and obligations of the sacrament of Baptism?
We also call today Sunday the Sunday of the Baptism of the Lord. At the beginning of a new liturgical season, it is the first Sunday that we call the “Season of Baptism.”
The Evangelist St. Luke addresses us today with the words, “You are my beloved Son, in you, I am well pleased” (Lk 3:22).
Let us recall that the baptism of the Lord Jesus is not one of the seven sacraments. The baptism administered by John at the Jordan was penitential. It was a manifestation of that man’s inner desire to change his life for the better, to ask God for the forgiveness of his sins, to cleanse himself of them. Baptism as one of the seven sacraments was instituted by Christ only later. With the baptism in the Jordan, the Lord Jesus begins His public activity. By unique signs, God confirms that Jesus is the true Messiah whom the prophets foretold and the nation awaited. During baptism, the mystery of the Holy Trinity, God in three divine persons, is revealed. It is revealed to us that the Father sends the Son, and the Son is united to the Father in the love of the Holy Spirit. Jesus wants to do the will of the Father, and the Holy Spirit rests upon him. Jesus took the nature of man and retained God’s heart to redeem man from sin so that we might become sons and daughters of God. In Jesus, His Son, God the Father, gives us the dignity of His children. With Jesus, who ascended from the Jordan after his baptism, the whole human family is united so that we may be washed from sin, conquer the fear of death, and share in the love of God. In Christ, we receive the one who is the way, the truth, and the life (cf. Jn 14:6). We no longer need to wonder when we accept Christ and his teachings knowingly and willingly. Jesus was given to us by God to be the Shepherd of our souls. Therefore, the words of God the Father, “You are my beloved Son, in you, I am well pleased” (Lk 3:22), belong to us, to every baptized person, and rightly require us to listen to his voice and keep his commandments. Jesus did not have to enter the Jordan as a sign of repentance and return because he was not a sinner; he had nothing to ask of his Father. When He made this gesture of humility, it was to remind us that He is in solidarity with our sins: “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” (1 Cor. 15:3). And St. Paul reminds us, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him, we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:21). We are instructed in the importance of baptism to forgive our sins.
To help us better understand the meaning of baptism, God has arranged things and events to understand baptism even more through signs. Why water? The people of the East understood water as the fountain of strength and life. Without water, the land became barren, the earth land of hunger and death. The sun burned out the life in plants, and without waterman would die. Water, which gives life to nature, is in the Sacrament of Baptism a sign of the divine life with which the Risen Christ has endowed us. The washing with water was a sign of worthiness. Jesus, as God and Lord, washed the disciples’ feet. By flying with water in baptism, we become children of God; we receive the rank of friends of God. Why the dove? In rabbinic tradition, the dove was a symbol of the Spirit of Yahweh, the creative power of God. The dove brought Noah a branch, a symbol of new life. At the beginning of Scripture in the Book of Genesis, we read, “The Spirit of God hovered over the waters.” (Gen. 1:2). The dove over the head of Jesus at his baptism points to the theological truth that the time of great spiritual renewal foretold by the prophets has come, a time when God will primarily manifest Himself, a time of new creation. In Christ as the new Adam, all become a new people, a new product. From the sacrament of baptism onwards, the Holy Spirit hovers over us like a dove, penetrating us, taking possession of us, strengthening us, it lifts us, protects us, and restores us. It is only a matter of not resisting his life-giving power by our sin and our solidarity with sin.
The words “You are my beloved Son, in you I am well pleased” (Lk 3:22) were first spoken at the Jordan when John the Baptist baptized Christ. They were spoken by God the Father at the moment of the baptism of Jesus, who was praying, and then heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in the form of a dove (cf. Lk 3:21-22). What happened then? Why does this event also concern us? Many today do not understand the word baptism. In the newspapers, on television, and the radio, we hear that so and so, this and that singer or band has baptized their CD, or that they have baptized an airplane, a boat, a car, but also a dog or a cat. Theology says that baptism is the first and most necessary sacrament. By it, a person is born again of water and the Holy Spirit (cf. Jn 3:5), so that the first sanctifying grace in a person’s life, the grace of rebirth, is the beginning of supernatural life, is bound to this sacrament. The remote substance of the sacrament of baptism is natural water; the nearer importance is washing the baptized person with water, either by immersion or by pouring or sprinkling. In the rite of the Western Church, for the time being, the sacrament of baptism is celebrated mainly by running water on the forehead of the baptized person.
For baptism to be valid, it is required that the water immediately touch the skin of the baptized person’s head, not the hair and that the water flow. In doing so, the celebrant says the words: “M. (name), I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and the Holy Ghost.” One receives the indestructible sign of baptism, the essential effect by which one becomes a member of the Mystical Body of Christ, a member of the Church. Another result of baptism is that it sanctifies a person by the grace of the new birth and thus obtains forgiveness of all sins and all punishment for sins. He receives the right to the assisting graces necessary to attain the goal of the Sacrament of Baptism. If the baptized person can receive other sacraments, he gets this right by receiving baptism. Any adult may validly administer the Sacrament of Baptism, but a priest or deacon assists it in proper circumstances. In danger of death to the person being baptized, any person may confer this sacrament. The celebrant must have the intention of wanting to baptize the person concerned. Every unbaptized person is eligible to receive the sacrament of baptism, and everyone is obliged by the command of Christ to be baptized. For children, the obligation is assumed by the parents or by those to whom the law has entrusted custody. It is required for an adult to have the intention at baptism that he wishes to receive baptism. He is presumed to have been properly prepared to receive baptism. We have a designated time of catechumenate for this. It is necessary for us to guard against scandal, against setting a bad example to those who wish to receive the Sacrament of Baptism in adulthood and to begin to live actively in the communion of the Church in general.
John was a non-practicing evangelical when he met Valerie, who was a habitual Catholic. She insisted that they must be married in Church. The priest took him up on it. John prepared for seven months. Slowly he accepted the truths of the faith. A year after the marriage, he sued the priest with pain: “I live with my in-laws. I cannot understand why they forced me, which I do not regret today, to have our marriage in Church when I regularly go to Mass alone from our house on Sundays. Their faith is shallow, customary, traditional… But, Mr. Parish Priest, I will not cease to fulfill my duties as a Christian Catholic.”
We realize that our baptism is a commitment before God and before the whole neighborhood where we live. Rightly, we can also use this to benefit ourselves and our surroundings.
In the company of believing parents, there was talk of children. One middle-aged man said: “It happened to me that when I was tired after a whole week’s plodding, and wanted to dissociate myself from attending Mass, I looked at my then teenage son, remembered my own difficulties in growing up, and at once, without hesitation, put aside the idea of dissociating myself from attending Mass. I am convinced that my example has been a strength to my son.”
Cardinal Dannels, Archbishop of Brussels, wrote: “How do we recognize that we have passed to that true faith where Jesus is more than a prophet to us?” And he answers, “It is straightforward. Do we only think of Jesus, talk about Jesus, discuss Jesus, admire Jesus – and nothing more? Do we not again and again put ourselves on the road to him, and do we not again and again draw strength from the sacrament of baptism? Let us bless ourselves in prayer with the necessary graces.
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