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Baptism of the Lord

The Baptism of ChristThe Feast of the Baptism of the Lord causes us to reflect on the meaning of Baptism in our daily life: at home, at work, at school, in social situations, and the like. To truly live the fundamental meaning of Baptism is rather difficult, but we have grace.

In the parish church the priest blesses water does the sprinkling rite to remind us of our Baptism.

Saint Proclus of Constantinople writes this about the meaning of Baptism of the Lord:

“Christ appeared to the world, and putting order into the disordered world he made it resplendent. He took upon himself the sin of the world and cast down the enemy of the world. He sanctified the founts of water, and enlightened the souls of human beings… Come, see the strange and new flood, greater and more excellent than that in the days of Noah. There the water of the flood destroyed the human race, but here the water of the baptism, by the power of him who is baptized in it, has called back the dead to life. There the dove carrying the olive branch in its beak denotes the fragrance of the sweet-smelling savor of the Lord Christ, but here the Holy Spirit coming in the form of a dove reveals to us our merciful God.”

In the words of the Acts of the Apostles in the second reading reading at the Novus Ordo Mass we hear, “In truth, I see that God shows no partiality.”  God’s power and spirit belongs to all people who live according to God’s designs: the fear of God and acting uprightly (righteousness). This is what Jesus taught His Apostles. Do we follow the leader?

The baptized Catholic is a  person whose heart belongs to the Lord in all things, no excuses, no trying to justify certain actions to ease the tension. To say we are Christian means that there is an obligation to follow the Leader and to lead the rest of the world into the kingdom of God promised to us.  Do people know that we are Catholic Christians?  Can people point at us and say, “There’s a Christian at work…at home…in the car…at the store…in the parking lot…in the dining room… with the parents…with the children?”

If you receive Holy Communion, and hence you enter in communion with the totality of Divine Revelation and the teaching of the Church, and you are in communion your brother and sister, then you can you are in communion with the Lord. At least that’s the hope. It is true, however, it is time to act uprightly so that God may be well pleased!

The Christmas season ends today. The beautiful decorations that give light and hope have run their course for now. The Christmas crib is a beautiful scene. It is the hope of Mother Church that the feast of the Baptism of the Lord would challenge us to live out the full meaning of Christmas more confidently.  Otherwise, the cute little baby Jesus statues will be packed away with no impact in life. Hope this is not the case.

Baptism of the Lord: splendor shining forth

Baptism of the LordSaint Ephrem the Syrian (deacon and Doctor of the Church) teaches:

“Today the Source of all the graces of baptism comes himself to be baptized in the river Jordan, there to make himself known to the world. Seeing him approach, John stretches out his hand to hold him back, protesting: ‘Lord, by your own baptism you sanctify all others; yours is the true baptism, the source of perfect holiness. How can you wish to submit to mine?’ But the Lord replies,’ I wish it to be so. Come and baptize me; do as I wish, for surely you cannot refuse me. Why do you hesitate, why are you so afraid? Do you not realize that the baptism I ask for is mine by every right? By my baptism the waters will be sanctified, receiving from me fire and the Holy Spirit. Unless I am immersed in them they will never be empowered to bring forth children to eternal life. There is every reason for you to let me have my way and do what I am asking you to do. Did I not baptize you when you were in your mother’s womb? Now it is your turn to baptize me in the Jordan. So come, then, carry out your appointed task’…. See the hosts of heaven hushed and still, as the all-holy Bridegroom goes down into the Jordan. No sooner is he baptized then he comes up from the waters, his splendor shining forth over the earth. The gates of heaven are opened, and the Father’s voice is heard: ‘This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased’. All who are present stand in awe as they watch the Spirit descend to bear witness to him. O, come all you peoples, worship him! Praise to you, Lord, for your glorious epiphany which brings joy to us all! The whole world has become radiant with the light of your manifestation.”

Scripture reveals to us that we are intimately connected with the person –not the idea– of Jesus Christ. How does this happen? By grace; by the singular grace of the sacrament of Baptism. The door opened for us in the sacrament of Baptism is the fullness of communio with God, resurrection of the body (eternal life); gives us the promise of our own bodies to be glorified like the Lord’s, Baptism illumines our every step, our every fiber of our being, and by Baptism we are inserted into the Paschal Mystery of the Lord (His life, death, resurrection and Ascension), and it makes us adopted children of God. Thus, we become members of Christ’s sacrament, the Church.

Baptism of the Lord

Baptism of the LordToday, the Church celebrating the Mass according to the Missal of Paul VI observes the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. In the Extraordinary Form of the Mass (Missal of Blessed John XXIII) this feast is celebrated on January 13, 2014. Also, in the Ordinary Form, the Christmas season comes to an end today (in the EF of the Liturgy Christmastide continues until the Presentation of the Lord –Candlemas).

The Introit antiphon for this Sunday reads, Behold the Lord the Ruler is come: and the Kingdom is in His Hand, and power, and dominion. — (Ps. 71. 2) Give to the king Thy judgment, O God: and to the king’s Son Thy justice.

****Scott Hahn has a teaching here; be sure to listen to Scott’s presentation (it’s only 3 min.).

In 2000, Pope John Paul had this to say about what we celebrate in the Liturgy today:

On the holy night in Bethlehem, Jesus was born among us in the poverty of a stable; on the day of Epiphany, the Magi acknowledged him as the long-awaited Messiah of the nations; today, all our attention is focused on his person and mission. The Father speaks to him directly: “You are my beloved Son,” as the heavens are opened and the Spirit descends on him in the form of a dove (cf. Mk 1: 10-10). The scene on the banks of the Jordan thus presents the solemn proclamation of Jesus as the Son of God. And so his saving mission begins publicly.

The Baptism that the Lord receives takes place in the context of John the Baptist’s penitential preaching. The ritual act of being immersed in water, offered by the Precursor, was an outward sign of repentance for sins committed and of the desire for spiritual renewal.

All this refers to the Christian sacrament of Baptism, which I will shortly have the joy of administering to these children and which we received a long time ago. Baptism inserted us into God’s own life, making us his adopted children in his only-begotten “beloved Son.”

Pope Benedict’s baptism of 20 children today: they inherit eternal life

An annual tradition on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord is the baptism of the children by the Pope in the Sistine Chapel. Today, Benedict baptized 20 children. This is the same place where the cardinals meet under lock and key to elect a new pontiff. Here is the pope’s teaching.

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The joy arising from the celebration of Christmas finds its completion today in the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. To this joy is added another reason for those of us who are gathered here: in the Sacrament of Baptism that will soon be administered to these infants, the living and active presence of the Holy Spirit is manifested, enriching the Church with new children, enlivening and making them grow, and we cannot help but rejoice. I wish to extend a special greeting to you, dear parents and godparents, who today bear witness to your faith by requesting Baptism for these children, because they are regenerated to new life in Christ and become part of the community of believers.

The Gospel account of Jesus’ baptism, which we have heard today according to St Luke’s account, shows the path of abasement and humility that the Son of God freely chose in order to adhere to the plan of the Father, to be obedient to His loving will for mankind in all things, even to the sacrifice on the Cross. Having reached adulthood, Jesus begins His public ministry by going to the River Jordan to receive from John the baptism of repentance and conversion. What happens may appear paradoxical to our eyes. Does Jesus need repentance and conversion? Of course not. Yet He Who is without sin is placed among the sinners to be baptized, to fulfil this act of repentance; the Holy One of God joins those who recognize in themselves the need for forgiveness and ask God for the gift of conversion – that is, the grace to turn to Him with their whole heart, to be totally His. Jesus wills to put Himself on the side of sinners, by being in solidarity with them, expressing the nearness of God. Jesus shows solidarity with us, with our effort to convert, to leave behind our selfishness, to detach ourselves from our sins, saying to us that if we accept Him into our lives, He is able to raise us up and lead us the heights of God the Father. And this solidarity of Jesus is not, so to speak, a mere exercise of the mind and will. Jesus was really immersed in our human condition; He lived it to the utmost – although without sin – and in such a way that He understands weakness and fragility. Therefore He is moved to compassion; He chooses to “suffer with” men, to be penitent together with us. This is the work of God that Jesus wishes to accomplish: the divine mission to heal those who are wounded and to cure those who are sick, to take upon Himself the sin of the world.

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The Spirit descends

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Jesus comes up out of the water and raises up the whole world with him. He sees the heavens rent open, which Adam had barred to himself and his posterity even as paradise was barred by a flaming sword. The Spirit comes to him as to an equal, bearing witness to his Godhead. A voice bears witness to him from heaven, because he had come from heaven. The Spirit descends in bodily form like the dove that so long ago announced the ending of the flood, and so gives honor to the body that is one with God.

Saint Gregory Nazianzen

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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