Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7 , Psalm 29:1-2, 3-4, 3, 9-10., Acts 10:34-38 , Luke 3:15-16, 21-22
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
MERRY CHRISTMASTIDE. Throughout the ages, Christians have celebrated Christmas as a season, with the twelve days between Christmas and the Epiphany as one long Christmas "day." The Christmas season ends today with our celebration of the Lord's baptism.
"Jesus' public life begins with his baptism by John in the Jordan. John preaches 'a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins'. A crowd of sinners - tax collectors and soldiers, Pharisees and Sadducees, and prostitutes- come to be baptized by him. 'Then Jesus appears.' The Baptist hesitates, but Jesus insists and receives baptism. Then the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, comes upon Jesus and a voice from heaven proclaims, 'This is my beloved Son.' This is the manifestation ('Epiphany') of Jesus as Messiah of Israel and Son of God." (CCC 535 )
Recounted in our liturgy today through the proclamation of the gospel of Lk 3:15-16, 21-22, the baptism of the Lord is "on his part the acceptance and inauguration of his mission as God's suffering Servant. He allows himself to be numbered among sinners; he is already 'the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.' "(CCC 536)
What is revealed as only a sign of the Lord's coming death in John's 'baptism of repentance' is not merely a sign for the new Christian who rises from the waters of the sacramental font. For each of the baptized, the immersion in, or pouring of, water and the invocation of the Trinity is a real sharing in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
"Through Baptism the Christian is sacramentally assimilated to Jesus, who in his own baptism anticipates his death and resurrection. The Christian must enter into this mystery of humble self-abasement and repentance, go down into the water with Jesus in order to rise with him, be reborn of water and the Spirit so as to become the Father's beloved son in the Son and 'walk in newness of life' (Rom 6:4)"(CCC 537).
St. Gregory of Nazianzus spoke well of this mystery when he preached: "Let us be buried with Christ by Baptism to rise with him; let us go down with him to be raised with him; and let us rise with him to be glorified with him." (CCC 537)
St. Hilary of Poitiers expressed, more poetically, our adoption as true sons and daughters of God in baptism:
"Everything that happened to Christ lets us know that, after the bath of water, the Holy Spirit swoops down upon us from high heaven and that, adopted by the Father's voice, we become sons of God." (CCC 537)
The greatest of gifts is ours in baptism: God's very own life and love. A life to overcome the death which is our inheritance from Adam's sin, a love to overpower and win us away from love of self to love of God for his own sake and our neighbors for his glory.
Another of the baptismal gifts we receive is the ability, in Christ, to praise and worship the Father in the Holy Spirit, and to be found pleasing to God as we do so. The baptismal font was often placed in the courtyard or near the entrance of early churches, and the practice continues so in many places today.
We "entered" the Body of Christ at the moment of our baptism. We became worshipping members in Body of the Son, His Church, pleasing and beloved by the Father, through our baptism. This is why holy water fonts are placed near the entrance of our churches. As you dip your fingers into the font and make the sign of the cross each time you enter the house of worship of the Lord, remember it is by the power of your baptism that you render fitting and pleasing worship to God in your spiritual sacrifice of holiness of life and, most fully, the Eucharistic sacrifice. It is by your bath in the waters flowing from the side of Christ the priest in his perfect offering that you have been incorporated into the one, holy, catholic and apostolic body of Christ in the world, his bride the Church.
I look forward to meeting you here again next week as, together, we "meet Christ in the liturgy", Father Cusick
Meeting Christ in the Liturgy
Art: Baptism of the Lord, Mosaic, Arian baptistry, Ravenna.