THE BAPTISM OF THE LORD
"Right faith is, of necessity, required for Baptism, since it is said, ’the Justice of God is by faith in Jesus Christ’ - Romans 3:22. Therefore, Baptism without faith avails nothing, and thus we must recall that without faith no one is acceptable to God.”
After the days of the Reformation spearheaded by Martin Luther, the only sacrament that serves as a bridge connecting the Catholic Church and the mainstream protestant churches is Baptism. Notwithstanding this, there are still differences in respect to the FORM and the MATTER.
The basic teachings of our catechesis tells us that the waters of baptism wash away our original sins. The obvious question is, if so, then why would Jesus go for baptism from John in the river Jordan? Does that presuppose He was a sinner like us? The answer is a big NO!
Jesus went for baptism because this was a century-old ritualistic practice amongst the Jews, equivalent to our Confessions. Until the 70 AD, the Jewish people used a special pool called ”Mikveh,” which literally means ”collection of water,” as a means of spiritual cleansing, to remove spiritual impurity and sin.
So, Jesus went through this to affirm the need to be in the state of holiness to be worthy of the blessings of God. He also did that to infuse the waters of baptism and the ceremony with His Divine Essence. Hence, baptism becomes a "conditio sine qua non" (condition without which there is not) to salvation.
But most significantly, the baptism of Jesus in the river Jordan manifests the official inauguration of His public ministry. So it officially reveals who He is (identity) and why is He here in our midst, if he is divine (mission).
So, Isaiah in the first reading reveals his identity as the suffering servant of the Lord. He has come to accomplish a divine task for the sake of humanity. To atone for their sins. To bring victory over sin and death. To be the Savior and the Redeemer. So the hope of salvation is in our midst.
Hence, our second reading leads us to discover how man can achieve his salvation through Him. That is why in the house of Cornelius, Peter was surprised at the miracle performed. He said, ”In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears Him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him.” Act. 10:35
Actually, Cornelius was a Roman soldier and a pagan, so Peter, being a Jew, never thought that the salvation and love of God could be shown to him.
Brothers and Sisters in Christ, know that, like Cornelius, if you persevere in your faith and trust in Jesus Christ, God is going to let his face shine on you. His glory will radiate in your life.
In the gospel reading, the Holy Trinity was at play. God the Father spoke, ”This is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased.” God the Holy Spirit manifested himself as he descended like a dove upon Jesus, and God the Son Himself was Jesus. This was a divine revelation to affirm officially the identity of Jesus - the Son of God, the Messiah - in the person of man.
Baptism, therefore, becomes a divinely sanctioned sacrament that every human being needs. The Psalmist echoes, ”The Lord will bless his people with peace.” Ps. 29:11.
Baptism is an awesome gift from God to men through his son Jesus Christ. That is why the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph #1279 states that by baptism we are incorporated into the church, the body of Christ, we become sharers of the priesthood of Christ. When our sins are washed away, this is the benefit.
Also in the same document, CCC #1213 adds that baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the spirit and the door to get access to the other sacraments.
To be at peace in life, this is what every man needs; Baptism. Jesus approved it with his baptism. So if we commemorate it, we then celebrate the inauguration of our salvation history.
Value your baptism, honor your baptismal vows, work towards your salvation!
Keep in mind what St. Gregory Nazianzen said, ”The three things God requires of all the Baptized: right faith in the heart, the truth on the tongue, temperance in the body.”
Happy Baptism Day to you all! May the Lord sustain our faith.
Fr. Emmanuel hails from Ghana and is passionate about the Gospel and bringing the love of Christ to all people. He speaks several languages, enjoys soccer and cooking, and loves St. Francis of Assisi.