Sunday we celebrated the end of the Christmas Season, concluding this year with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. This feast is an important one, but unlike Christmas or Epiphany, its importance is perhaps not as evident as the other feasts of this season...
Of course, Christ was not in need of baptism in the same sense that we are in need of it: He is God, and therefore perfect; no sin needed washed away in His regard. But we, being sinners, stand in need of baptism as a remedy for our sinfulness and the necessary gate through which we must walk in order to enter into Heaven. So why did John baptize the Christ?
In short, to show us the way to the Father, and to sanctify the waters by which we would be saved. When Christ descended into the waters of the Jordan, these waters - standing in the place of all waters - which were graceless - were filled with His grace and became a source of grace, so that we who were graceless at our birth might, by descending into baptismal waters, be filled with His grace.
Where Christ has gone, we are called to follow, and since He first passed through the waters on His own journey back to the Father’s House, He points out to us this necessary beginning of our own journey there. In Baptism, the Father acknowledged - not for His sake but for ours - the Sonship of Christ, so that we would also know that He is the One to whom we should listen. In each of our lives, it is this following and listening to Christ that must be the defining traits of our time on earth. When we were each baptized, the Father pronounced those same words of paternal love over us: “This is my son…this is my daughter.” In that moment, the image of God was restored in our lives, but the rest of our lives are meant to be an exercise in perfecting the image of God newly restored in us through Christ.
It has become all too common among Catholics - no doubt influenced more by Protestant thought than Catholic - to act as if virtually nothing they do matters in terms of their salvation: “I am a good person”, the thought goes, “I haven’t killed anyone and I am generally nice. So I don’t practice my faith with integrity, I don’t go to church regularly, I foster habits of sin…but God loves me so I’m fine.” Indeed, God does love all His children, but the real question is: Do we love Him? And do we act like it? When we were baptized, we were given a task - in order to truly become the sons and daughters we are created to be, we must listen to Christ, and that means listening to His Church, who teaches us everything necessary for becoming like Him in all things, and thereby to achieve the perfection of His image within us, without which we will have no place in the Father’s House.
On this feast, may we consider in the year ahead what is necessary in our life to become more and more like Christ in all things. May we pray more, conform our lives more to the grace of the sacramental and liturgical life of the Church, persevere against sin, and serve Christ more fervently in others, so that at the end of our days we may once more hear the Father’s voice speak over us: “This is my son…this is my daughter” - adding at the end of our days those most precious words: “and in you I am well-pleased.” May God bless you in the week ahead, and may Mother Mary lead you more deeply into the Sacred and Merciful Heart of Jesus.