THE BAPTISM OF THE LORD YEAR C
Readings: Is. 40: 1-5, 9-11, Titus 2:11-14; 3:4-7, Luke 3: 15-16.21-22
- Origin of baptism
- Why was Jesus Christ baptized?
- The significance of baptism
The first reading made a deep impression in me when I read the words “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she received from the LORD’S hand double for all her sins” (Is. 40:1ff). After much suffering, the children of Israel prayed thus, “Oh, that you would pierce/rend the Heavens and come down”. (Is. 64:1) Those prayers of Israel have been answered. So, we celebrate Christmas, Epiphany of the Lord where the Lord that came at Christmas appears to the Gentile nations through the Magi/wise men. That revelation provoked a lot of responses from Herod the Great, the High Priest and the Scribes and the wise men. Today, the Lord is not just revealing himself or appearing in our midst but He is beginning His public ministry where He would preach to clear our misunderstandings of life, teach to correct our ignorance and heal us of our diseases, infirmities and all bodily and soul defects. Through His three fold ministries, the Lord would retrace our steps back to Himself and reorder our ways. May His public ministry disclosed by His Baptism reorder our days and years ahead, through Christ our Lord, Amen.
ORIGIN OF BAPTISM
Thus, we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord. Baptism is a sacrament that washes away our original sin /(actual sins), makes us holy, children of God, members of the Church and heirs of God’s kingdom. It is the gateway to other sacraments and membership into the Church – the Body of Christ. The big question is did baptism originate from John the Baptist and Jesus Christ?
It is important to note that the baptism we have today did not originate from John the Baptist or Jesus Christ. Before them, there existed some sort of three rites of “Baptism” in the O.T. for ceremonial purification – “Baptism” of water, “Baptism” of oil and “Baptism” of Blood.
“Baptism” of water: “Moses told them what the LORD had ordered to be done. Bringing forward Aaron and his sons, he first washed them with water” Lev. 8:5-6. We still do this by baptism of sprinkling/pouring or immersion. More so, Christ did it by His own baptism in the River Jordan as we have it today in our Gospel reading.
“Baptism” of oil: “Taking the anointing oil, Moses…sprinkled some of the oil seven times on the altar, and anointed the altar… He also poured some of the anointing oil on Aaron’s head thus consecrating him. Lev. 8: 10-12. Again, this is still part of our baptismal rite. Remember, we were anointed twice with the oil of Catechumen to strengthen us with Christ presence to fight evils of all sort. And we were anointed with the Oil of Chrism to configure us into the image of Christ. Hence we become Christians – Another Christ for people and the world. This sort of baptism conforms to the Transfiguration event of Christ on Mount Tabor (Luke 9: 28ff). We know what oil does. It brightens our faces and our entire bodies just as Christ face shone before the Apostles on the Mountain of Transfiguration.
“Baptism” of blood: “Moses had the sons of Aaron also come forward, and he put some of the blood on the tips of their right ears, on the thumbs of their right hands, and on the sides of the altar” Lev. 8: 23-24. This was equally experienced by Christ by the event of Calvary. Blood and water flowed out of Christ on the Cross. (John 19:34). We also experience the efficacy of that Blood when we are baptised. The Blood sanctifies us and remains in us to free us from sins and the plans of the Devil. Again, that Blood is renewed in us as we daily receive Holy Communion worthily.
WHY WAS JESUS CHRIST BAPTIZED?
Right from time, baptism presupposed sin and in the time of John the Baptist, the Jews themselves receive baptism to symbolically demonstrate a sign of repentance and the need for the forgiveness of their sins and baptism was more for the Gentiles to serve as a means of entrance into the faith. Jesus had no sin but He received baptism from John the Baptist. Why? First, He had no sin and that was why John resisted baptising Him. However, the Lord insisted for some special reasons.
Christ was never a sinner but he chose to be baptised in order to share in our humanity and in doing so liberate our fallen humanity. St. Paul says, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23) and it has been established that “Sin is in the blood.” So, you see it in the alcoholic, the criminal, the assassin, the prostitute, the liar and so on. “The shedding of blood, therefore, represented the emptying of sin”. Consequently, it is said “Unless blood is shed, there can be no forgiveness of sins” (Heb. 9:22). Hence, He became the Lamb of God (John 1:29) in order to atone for our sins. He kept company with us not to support our continuous sinning but to stop us from sinning. Beautifully, the Church has followed His footsteps. She goes in search of sinners to call them to repentance and she spares no resources or efforts to recall and regain all sinners. For God and the Church no sinner is beyond redemption. Everybody is redeemable in the sight of God and the Church.
Anecdote: #1: The film Gandhi is a three-hour epic, depicting the life of Mahatma Gandhi in India. In order to lead the oppressed people of India to freedom from British rule, Gandhi adopted non-violent means such as fasting from food, vigils of prayer, peaceful marches, protests and civil disobedience. One of the reasons why Gandhi put on a loincloth and fasted from food, almost to the point of death, was to show solidarity with the Indian people, identifying with them in their physical sufferings. This finally brought independence to India. (Vima Dasan).
2. SANCTIFICATION OF ALL WATERS USED FOR BAPTISM.
From Jordan the Lord blesses all waters to be used for baptism. He made the waters meant for baptism holy. That is why we can have baptism by sprinkling and Infant Baptism (Acts 10:47).
3. TO GIVE APPROVAL TO BAPTISM
In Matt. 5:17 Christ has not come to abolish the Law and the prophets but to fulfil. To fulfil means to give approval to existing practices or to reject what does not conform to the will of the Heavenly Father. Just as He did approve other sacraments, like marriage, anointing of the sick and others so Christ approves baptism by His reception of it.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF CHRIST’S BAPTISM
A. IT’S SACRAMENTAL EFFECTS: Washes away sins (Rom. 3:23) – redemption, liberation, deliverances; makes us holy (1Pt. 1:16; Heb. 12:14).
B. COVENANTAL EFFECTS: Baptism seals our relationship with God. What circumcision does for a Jew, Baptism does for a Christian. Therefore, we do not need any covenant again. All so called covenants made by boyfriends and girlfriends, blood covenants, business covenants, juju/shrine covenants have been nullified by our baptismal covenant with the Almighty God. Jer. 31:31-34.
C. OUR IDENTITY: Through baptism we know who we are and whose we are. Baptism gives us the high dignity of or honour of being the adopted sons and daughters of God. We become children of God, sisters and brothers of Jesus Christ.
D. OUR MISSION: Our mission is defined. “Go therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20) and “Go into all the world, and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He that believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he that disbelieves shall be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16).
E. WE RECEIVE POWER: “He that believes and is baptized will be saved; but whoever does not believe will be condemned. These signs will accompany them that believe: in my name shall they cast out demons; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall in no wise hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover”. (Mark 16:16-18).
Thomas Merton: A young man once described his experience of sinking into insanity. He was a very bright university student, but he had abandoned his studies in favour of nightclubs and pornography. One night he retired to a hotel room. As he lay in bed, the window appeared to expand until it reached the floor. He heard a mocking voice in his mind saying, “What if you threw yourself out of that window?” The young man wrote: “Now my life was dominated by something I had never known before: fear. It was humiliating, this strange self-conscious watchfulness. It was a humiliation I had deserved more than I knew. I had refused to pay attention to the moral laws upon which all vitality and sanity depends.” Well, this young man did begin to pay attention to the moral law. He began to put his life in order – and to experience inner peace. He eventually entered the Catholic Church and went on to become one of the most famous monks of the twentieth century. His name is Thomas Merton. Today’s Gospel on Jesus’ baptism should challenge us, too, to examine whether we are keeping our Baptismal promises. (Fr.Phil Bloom)
DUTIES: A great challenge as well as a responsibility. Fulfilling our baptismal promises, rejection of Satan, his works (sins) and empty promises are the great duties that every baptized person ought to fulfil. Acceptance of the TRINITY, THE CHURCH AND ALL HER TEACHINGS is the points we should reflect and grow daily. The second reading talks about irreligion and worldly passions. These are the two major things to struggle against as baptised persons. By irreligion, we talk about indifference to God and the sacraments and by world passion we talk about living a wayward life. A life that does not befit a Christian. A life driven by the powers of the senses. A life clouded by sins and their vices. Note you were baptized in the Name of the TRINITY (Matt. 28: 19-20). Therefore, we must reflect their persons and character.
RIGHTS: You are entitled to enjoy the sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist and Reconciliation.
 Fulton Sheen, The Priest is not His Own, ATC Publications, Bangalore, 1963, 12.
 Fulton Sheen, The Priest is not His Own, 12.