Baptism of the Lord

Today we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord.  Strictly speaking, Our Lord did not need to be baptized.  In Baptism, we are cleansed of Original Sin and through Baptism we receive the Holy Spirit; through Baptism, we are given a share in the divine life of God and become children of God: sons and daughters of the Almighty.  Jesus Christ is the Eternal Son of God.  From before the beginning of time, He dwells with the Father.  Jesus is fully God and therefore He possesses divine life from all eternity.  The Eternal Son of God became fully human: a man like us in all things except for sin.  Jesus was already perfectly without sin and already had divine life within Him, therefore had no need to be baptized.

In the Gospel of Matthew that was read just a moment ago, we heard that Saint John the Baptist protested when the Lord came to Him to be baptized.  The Lord said in reply that it was fitting for Him to fulfill all righteousness.  In other words, even though He is perfectly without sin, He allowed Himself to be baptized as an example for us.  The Christian rite of Baptism has a beautiful prayer which says that the waters of Baptism were sanctified by Christ when He was baptized.

Furthermore, we should also note that Saint John’s baptism differed from our Christian Baptism.  Saint John the Baptist himself said that he only baptizes with water; but he told the people that One was after him Who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire.  Of course Saint John was pointing forward to Our Lord.  The baptism that Saint John was administering was only an outward sign of repentance from personal sin.  The Baptism that we receive into Christ is not a mere sign of repentance; it has a spiritual effect: it really washes sin away and pours God’s grace into our hearts making us children of God and Temples of the Holy Spirit.

After Christ was baptized, the heavens opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him and the voice of the Father was heard saying that Jesus is the Father’s Beloved Son and that the Father is well pleased with His Son.  Through our Baptism, we become sons and daughters of God.  Today we will witness the Baptism of Dylan Hogan.  When the water is poured over Dylan’s head while the Name of the Trinity is invoked the Holy Spirit will descend to dwell within his soul; once Dylan is baptized he will become a temple of the Holy Spirit and a child of God.

Another thing that happened to us at our Baptism and will happen to Dylan shortly, is that through Baptism we become members of the Mystical Body of Christ.  In Baptism, we are united to Christ; in Baptism we share in the death and Resurrection of Christ.  When we are baptized, we receive a mark on our souls that cannot be removed and that mark is a sign that we belong to Jesus Christ.  When we are baptized, we are baptized into the death and Resurrection of Christ, and as a result we are conformed to Christ.  We become sons and daughters of God in Christ.  As a result of that union with and conformity to Christ we come to share in His threefold office of Priest, Prophet and King.

We are a priestly people by virtue of our Baptism into Christ.  There is a difference between the ordained priesthood and the common priesthood that we all share by our Baptism, but every baptized person shares, in their own way, in the priesthood of Christ.  A priest is someone who is set apart to serve God.  The way that a priest serves God is by offering sacrifice.  The sacrifice that Jesus made to God was the sacrifice of Himself upon the Cross.  The ordained priest is set apart to offer the Sacrifice of the Mass.  By virtue of our Baptism, we are all a priestly people; we are all set apart to serve the Lord and to offer sacrifice to God.  Each and every one of us is called to imitate Jesus and offer the gift of ourselves to God.  Just as Jesus offered Himself upon the Cross, so too we are to offer ourselves up to God.  Jesus said that if we would be His disciples, we have to take up our cross and follow Him.  We can make an offering to God of our daily work, our sufferings, our private prayers, our thoughts, our joys, and our anxieties.  We are all called to imitate Jesus Christ and offer everything we have and all that we are back to God: that is what it means to love God with all our minds, all our hearts, and all our strength.

Through our Baptism, we are also called to fulfill the role of prophet.  A prophet is one who announces God’s message to others.  Jesus fully revealed God to us: He revealed God to us by His words, by His actions, and ultimately by His death.  By dying on the Cross, Jesus Christ demonstrated the depth of God’s love for us.  We too are called to share in the prophetic mission of Christ.  We are called to share with others the Good News that God has sent us a Savior.  We are called to share our Faith with those that we encounter from day to day.  That does not mean that we need to preach to everyone that we meet; but Scripture does say that we are always to be ready to give reasons for the hope that is within us.  (1 Peter 3:15)  Besides our verbal witness, our lives ought also to bear witness to the fact that we are Christians.  We preach loudest by our actions.  Jesus said that others would know that we are Christians by our love.

Finally, we know that Jesus Christ is the King of kings and Lord of lords.  Even now He reigns in Heaven at the right hand of the Father.  We are destined to reign forever with Christ in Heaven.  Yet while we are on this earth, we must follow the example that Our Lord gave to us.  Through Baptism, we have become a royal priestly people; but that does not mean that we are to think ourselves better than others.  While on earth Jesus said that He did not come to be served, but to serve.  Christ is Our King and yet He washed the feet of His disciples.  If we wish to reign with Christ in Heaven, we have to follow the example that He set for us while on earth.  We have to love one another as He has loved us.

Dear parents, family and friends of Dylan: today you are here to witness the beginning of Dylan’s walk with the Lord.  Today Dylan will receive the Holy Spirit for the first time; today Dylan will become a son of God; today Dylan is set apart for Christ.  As he grows up it is your duty, parents, to make sure that Dylan learns the Faith that he is about to be baptized into.  Parents are the first teachers of the Faith for their children.  Your family and friends and the entire parish family of Our Lady of Good Counsel is here to aid you in that duty, but the responsibility is primarily yours: children learn from the example of their parents.  You are the first teachers of the Faith to your child, may you also be the best of teachers.

As we celebrate the Sacrament of Baptism, we all ought to call to mind our own Baptisms; let us ask Our Lord to grant to all of us the graces that we need to live out ever more faithfully the three offices that we received in our Baptism: Lord Jesus Christ, we thank you for the gift of our Faith; we thank you for sharing with us Your divine life.  We ask you to help us to conform our hearts ever more completely to Your Sacred Heart.  Help us, Lord, to live out faithfully the mission that each one of us has received at our Baptism.  May we live out the offices that we have received in a way that is most pleasing to You.  Amen.