ON THIS FEAST OF THE BAPTISM OF THE LORD we have to look at the meaning of this event in the life of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and look beyond the event itself. We cannot make a simple application to our lives from the event because it is a report about a unique event in Christ’s life. We can use the meaning of this event in Christ’s life to ourselves on several levels, remembering that many of the incidents which accompanied Christ’s baptism are symbolical of what happened at our own Baptism. At Christ’s baptism the Holy Spirit descended upon Him; at our Baptism the Trinity took its abode in our soul. At His baptism Christ was proclaimed the “Beloved Son” of the Father; at our Baptism we become the adopted sons and daughters of God. At Christ’s baptism the heavens were opened; at our Baptism heaven was opened to us. At His baptism Jesus prayed; after our Baptism we must pray to avoid actual sin. There is also a practical application to consider, simply because Jesus is the primary example for us of doing the will of God. Jesus, born without sin, did not need to be baptized; Christ did so by submitting to baptism and the Mosaic law. By doing so, He pleased God. God desires every believer to make a commitment to do His will, and doing that will (as we learn throughout Sacred Scripture) means sacrificial service – service to God, and to others. That is what the Christian life is all about. This commitment often comes at the same time as conversion, but it may also come later when we realize and come to understand what God desires of us. It should be connected with the Sacrament of Baptism, because this “gateway” sacrament is a tremendous step forward as an outward sign of commitment to the way of Christ. But a lot of people realize later in their life what it is God is asking of them. Now God’s will for us is obviously be very different from what Jesus was to do. But God’s will for us is also recorded in Sacred Scripture, and so we should make an informed commitment, as children of God, to do it. And since it will mean a life of sacrificial service, or to put it another way, since it will not be a natural or easy way of life, we need the empowerment of the Holy Spirit – far more than Jesus did. The Christian life is not natural – through Baptism our lives as Christians become supernatural. The Sacred Scriptures are filled with instructions for Christians to present our lives as living sacrifices, for example: “I urge you therefore, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12:1,2). Remembering, too, that as persons baptized into the Body of Christ, we are to “Watch carefully then how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise, making the most of the opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not continue in ignorance, but try to understand what is the will of the Lord” (Ephesians 5:15-17). Baptized into the Body of Christ, each endowed with gifts and abilities given to us by God, we are taught: “As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:12,13). And thus by living a life of love of God and love of neighbor – and living a life of service to God and to others “be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” [James 1:22] – each of our lives, too, will be pleasing to God.
LET US REMEMBER IN OUR PRAYERS THE VICTIMS OF TERRORISM, especially those killed and injured in the attacks this past Wednesday in Paris, France. We also need to pray for a conversion of mind and heart of those who embrace terrorism, so they may turn away from evil and turn instead to living lives of love and peace.
Fr. Mike Lumpe