we saw how the Baptism of Jesus is one of three manifestation or "Theophany" moments: the Nativity, the Baptism and the Wedding at Cana. Today we are focusing on the centre of these three events: The baptism, which this year, in Canada, was celebrated last Monday, on January 8th.
I’m sure that thousands of books and articles have been written as to why Jesus needed to be baptized – I won’t comment on that, because I don’t know (curious to know your thoughts: email me
) – but I am going to suggest that Jesus had to be baptized so that from then on, at every baptism, the heavens would be opened and the Father’s voice would be heard. That’s what happens at baptism.
God's Voice is Heard
I said it last week and it's worth repeating: It’s not every day that we hear God’s voice. It doesn’t happen at the birth of Jesus. Angels are flying around and singing, but we don’t hear God’s voice. It doesn’t happen when Jesus is on the cross. God is very much absent when Jesus is on the Cross. It doesn’t happen at his resurrection. But it happens at his Baptism.
In fact, that’s what happens with every Sacrament because the Sacraments are a meeting of heaven and earth. Every Sacrament is a marriage of the human with the divine – but more so at baptism: The Heavens are opened and the Holy Spirit descends and the Father’s voice is heard. When we are baptized maybe we don’t hear God’s voice – maybe we aren’t paying attention. But at every baptism God says, “This is my beloved son, my beloved daughter… You are my beloved child, in whom I am well pleased.”
Most of us are OK with the idea that God loves us, but how do you feel about the fact that you are God’s beloved? You are God’s beloved. How many beloveds do you have? Your husband or wife? Your boyfriend? Maybe you can say that your children are beloved… There are 7.6 billion people in the world and you
are God’s beloved! We can’t even begin to imagine how much God loves us. If you think about the person in your life who loves you the most; that will always love you, no matter what; God loves you a million times more. And it’s for everyone; no matter who you are, or what you’ve done.
The perpetrators of the most horrific terrorist attacks: They are God’s beloved.
God doesn’t approve of their actions, but He loves them. We are all, no matter what, God’s beloved. You don’t even have to do anything. You are God’s beloved. When Jesus was baptized, he hadn’t done anything, still God said, “you are my beloved.” Just because you are who you are.
But that moment of baptism was the beginning. Baptism is only the beginning of the journey. St. Peter tells Cornelius and his family and friends in Acts 10:34-38 (one of the suggested readings for the Feast day) that Christ’s ministry began with the baptism and the anointing of the Holy Spirit. I don’t have time to get into the Cornelius story, but it’s a great one that I encourage everyone to read. Go look it up in Acts 10.
Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit so He could begin his ministry. And what was his ministry? To proclaim the Good News? Yes, but there’s more. To forgive our sins? Yes, but there’s more than that. To save us so we can go to Heaven? Yes, but there’s more. To do good and heal those oppressed by evil? That’s what Peter tells Cornelius. Yes, but there is more. Jesus came to give us His life. Imagine having the very life of God inside of us. The reading ends with Peter saying that Jesus was able to do all these things “for God was with him.” That’s what happens at every Sacrament, we receive the very life of God and God is with us.
It all begins with Baptism.
Jesus heals those oppressed by evil by giving us His life. That’s us: Those oppressed by evil. All of us are oppressed, imprisoned, enslaved. We are the bruised reed and the smoldering wick that Isaiah speaks of in another suggested reading for the Feast (Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7). Jesus gives us his life so that we can be healed of our bruises and our smoldering-ness and so that all those things Isaiah says can come true: The eyes of the blind (us) are opened; prisoners (us) are freed; those who are in darkness (us) can see the Light.
The Second Vatican Council document Lumen Gentium
(The Dogmatic Constitution of the Church, chapter 5) tells us that by virtue of our Baptism we have a call to holiness. That means we are all created to go to Heaven; that’s where we are meant to go. That’s plan A (plan B is not all that desirable), and we all have a call to mission so we can bring others to Heaven with us. Jesus was anointed at his Baptism so He could begin his mission. We too, are anointed at our Baptism and at our Confirmation (and with all the Sacraments, as in every Eucharist), not so that we just go home and enjoy God’s Grace – but so that we can join Him in His mission: the mission to holiness and the mission to mission!
American author Howard Thurman wrote:
When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among people,
To make music in the heart.
We may be at the end of the Christmas season, but this is when the real work of Christmas begins. The work of our Baptism.
Next week, I begin Deacon-structing Baptism, so I hope you come back!
Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching:email@example.com @deaconpedrogm