Our baptism is about the fullness of new life

Jesus, who humbled Himself, took the path of solidarity with the people. He was baptised in the River Jordan together with the sinners, those who had gone through life in an uncertain and perilous world.

Jan 08, 2022

Baptism of the Lord (C)

Readings: Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11;
Titus 2:11-14, 3:4-7; Gospel: Luke 3:15-16, 21-22

John the Baptist said that he was baptising with water but there was One who is mightier than him who would baptise them with Holy Spirit and fire. But why did Jesus, who has no sin nor the need for repentance, wish to be baptised?

Jesus, who humbled Himself, took the path of solidarity with the people. He was baptised in the River Jordan together with the sinners, those who had gone through life in an uncertain and perilous world.

He gladly accepted His mission to be one with them in humility. He did not start His mission on a pedestal by teaching doctrine or dogma but based His ministry on human touch - in solidarity with the joys and sorrows of the people. This approach in humility is similar to Mary who, carrying the baby Jesus in her womb, went to visit Elizabeth, who was also with child. She did not expect or wait for Elizabeth to come visit her. It shows that God is the one who always takes the first step.

In embracing humility, we have to ask ourselves a few questions. Is baptism merely a stepping stone to receiving other sacraments? Or does it suggest the right of Catholics to assert themselves to the rights accorded to every baptised person enshrined in Canon law? Does it elevate the baptised to another status? Or does it provide or give assurance for a better, more promising future, equipped with a deeper faith and sound moral character?

The teachings of the Church on Baptism, with its indelible mark, and the removal of the stain of Original Sin are clear. These are matters pertaining to the effects of Baptism. Somehow, while addressing what the essentials of Baptism are, we may miss the importance of what is going to take place beyond the walls of the Church or the life after baptism.

Our baptism is about the fullness of new life. The teachings on sacrament are an important part of our understanding of what Baptism is, the other, which is equally important, is the Christian life. Who am I as a Christian in the world? How do I develop a new life as a baptised person? How do I fit into a life worthy of being a Christian, truly authentic to my calling as a child of God?

The Church needs workers or teachers who are able to translate the struggles of life in the light of the Gospel message meaningfully and in humility — the ability to listen and articulate what is at stake in life, locally and globally. Ultimately, what our baptism means to us as Christians hinges on the reality that we live in the world and the Church. What is our story, struggle and encounter as Christians in a world that is less charitable and considerate on human dignity, social justice, climate change etc? How can we make a difference or change as a baptised person?

The thrust of Jesus’ gospel message is to proclaim God as near, accessible, and real in relationship. He exemplifies it at the beginning of His public ministry by allowing Himself to be baptised by John. He did not ask to be treated differently from the people of His time. In fact, Jesus identified Himself with the people.

The Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, is also identified with the people in their struggles, joys and dreams. The Church sees the world, with the history of humankind, played out just like in the theatres — the triumphs and tragedies of man, family and society which come in many forms — racism, gender discrimination, abortion, war and mental or physical abuse.

The Church cares, as the Council states, about “The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ” (Gaudium et Spes)

A Christian life is a journey together as one community in the Spirit. John the Baptist spoke about baptism. He said that Jesus would baptise them with the Holy Spirit and fire. As St Paul says, ‘For in one Spirit we were all baptised into one body’ (1 Corinthians 12:13).

A Christian’s courage and strength in making faith-based decisions in every situation or overcoming any tragedy, lies primarily on living out his or her personal experience with the living God — an experience that comes by entering into a relationship with the Holy Spirit. The paradox is this — the assurance that one has the possession of the Spirit. It is not something that one is made aware of through knowledge of sound doctrine, theological indoctrination by the Scripture or the Church teachings.

All teachings and knowledge will take shape and meaning, and be realised only if the baptised live the experience of God and His graces first and foremost.

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