Sunday, January 10, 2010
Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord
The Christmas season ends today with the Baptism of Our Lord in the Jordan by John the Baptist. Last Sunday Our Lord was made manifest to all people at the Epiphany, this week Our Lord makes clear the advent, or arrival of the Holy Spirit to all believers at Baptism.
In today’s Gospel from Luke we read of the people being baptized asking John if he “might be the Christ.” John answers “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Luke 3: 15-16)
Later that day, Jesus came in front of John for baptism. Immediately recognizing Jesus, John said “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?” Jesus replied “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him. After Jesus comes out of the water, the heavens open and the Holy Spirit descends upon Him and the voice of Our Heavenly Father says, “This is my beloved Son which whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:14-17)
Some may wonder why Jesus, who is without sin, is in need of baptism. He is not. Jesus allowed Himself to be baptized in order to model for us the appropriate way to draw near, to become sons of God, and to sanctify the water for the Sacrament of Baptism.
Jesus does not enter the water to be sanctified as we do; He entered in order to sanctify the water. By this act Jesus empowered the water to no longer just be an outward sign, but actually a means by which the Holy Spirit comes to live within each of us. In this one act Jesus initiates the Sacrament of Baptism.
“Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit, and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission: “Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water in the word.”” CCC #1213
In other words a sacrament is an outward sign, instituted by Christ that conveys a supernatural grace. The waters that Jesus sanctifies by allowing Himself to be baptized by John represent the physical symbol or outward sign of the sacrament. When we are baptized we receive the invisible spiritual reality of supernatural grace that frees us from sin, fills us with the Holy Spirit, and makes us sons of God, members of the Church and participants in Her Mission. Thanks be to God.
Baptism of Christ by Rogier van der Wyeden
Baptism of Christ by Nicolas Poussin
Baptism of Christ by Bellini
Baptism of Christ Piero della Francesca