The Baptism of the Lord
On most weekends each month, we celebrate one or two baptisms at Our Lady of the Rosary church in Caloundra. Baptisms are joy-filled occasions which draw families together to mark (usually an infant’s) entry into the family of the God’s children. One of the things I personally love about baptisms is being able to turn the serious nature of the occasion down a bit by encouraging families to have fun, laugh at my lame jokes, and take as many photos as they like. More often than not, we’re graced with families who don’t feel connected with the worshiping community and so on these occasions, it becomes important to offer them an environment which is both welcoming and relaxed.
As we heard in the Gospels leading up to Christmas, baptism/immersing in water was something that John the Baptist performed for people to symbolise an internal purification in preparation for the coming of the Messiah. John’s ritual washing wasn’t something that actually produced repentance but symbolised the change of heart had already taken place in those who stepped forward. Today, water remains the primary symbol of baptism in washing sins away and offering new life. I’d like to draw your attention however, to our Gospel reading for Jesus’ baptism because curiously, Luke says nothing about water.
“Now when all the people had been baptised, and while Jesus, after his own baptism, was at prayer, heaven opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily shape like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on you’” (Lk 3:21-22). For Luke and his community, the descent of the Holy Spirit was the most important part of Jesus’ baptism and represented both his anointing as the Messiah/Christ – the Hebrew and Latin words which mean saviour – and the resulting relationship between Father and Son. What does The Baptism of the Lord in Luke’s Gospel, therefore, mean for each of us – particularly in light of our own baptism?
While we generally talk about Jesus’ resurrection as being the Divine action which created a bridge between heaven and earth, the Baptism of the Lord paves the way for our salvation not just at our death, but our inclusion in the Kingdom of God in this life through the relationship we cultivate with God by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Just as Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus at his own baptism, Christians, too, at baptism, receive the ability to have a personal relationship with God. We bring this to life in an active way by living in a new way. In a certain sense, the new life we receive at baptism is one of the mysteries of our faith. We can’t see it but our faith tells us that when we’re baptised, we receive the gift of Divine life – a life which empowers us to be in relationship with God. As we celebrate this day, lets honour the new life we’ve received – or are seeking to receive for those who are not baptised – by offering our prayers of thanksgiving to the God who desire to be known by every person on earth.