Thank you for your birthday wishes and greetings! While sadly I wasn't with you to celebrate Mass, it was a great birthday: the Browns beat the Steelers to win their first playoff game since the 1994 season (a Wild Card game against the Patriots on New Year's Day 1995). While the Buckeyes were unable to defeat Alabama, it was good to beat Clemson and win the Sugar Bowl. I'll definitely take the Browns victory!
It is worthwhile for us to go back and reflect again upon last week's gospel reading and feast of the Baptism of the Lord. John the Baptist is baptizing in the Jordan River. Here an important distinction is needed: John's baptism was not a Christian baptism, it wasn't the baptism we have now. The word “baptism” comes from a Greek word meaning, “to immerse.” John was calling people to repentance, to put on a new mind in preparation for the coming of the Messiah and was immersing people in water as a sign of their repentance. We can contrast John's baptism to the baptism of the New Covenant, the door by which we enter into the life of grace and the sacraments. Our baptism was instituted by Jesus as He instructed His disciples at the end of the Gospel of St. Matthew to go forth, to teach all nations, to make disciples, and to baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. The baptism of the New Covenant washes away all sin, makes us temples of the Holy Spirit, and gives us the grace of new life.
Jesus approaches John seeking baptism. Jesus didn't need to be baptized, and yet His baptism is on one hand pedagogical: by His example, Jesus is teaching and showing us the need for baptism. Baptism is necessary, and we should baptize as soon as possible—perhaps more on this later. On the other hand, Jesus reveals by being baptized by John that He wants to be a part of our lives. Entering into the muddy waters of the Jordan River, Jesus takes on our burdens, our flaws, and the “muddiness” of our lives. Instead of running away from us, Jesus decides to draw closer to us. Christmas is celebration of Emmanuel, “God with us,” and the feast of the Baptism of the Lord emphasizes this: God is with us and draws near to us even in our faults. How great God's love is for us!
Another notable point in this event in the life of Christ is the Father's proclamation: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” This statement helps us understand why it is so important to baptize and to not delay it. Baptism is our adoption into the family of the Most Holy Trinity. As the Father declared Jesus His beloved Son, which the Son has been from all eternity, so the Father declares us His beloved sons and daughters at our baptism. This is incredible when we think about it: God wants us to be a part of His family. God wants to adopt us. God wants to call us His beloved sons and daughters, and He wants to delight in us. This is ultimately our deepest identity: sons and daughters of God. May we live in conformity to such an identity, and may we live so as to allow God to bring us more fully into His family. In addition, may we begin to see those around us as they are: sons and daughters of God.
We are saints under construction, called to live as sons and daughters of God. Have a great week!