Baptism – A call to ‘Newness’ and ‘Mission’
Today we celebrate the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Today’s Gospel, we hear John the Baptist contrast his baptism of repentance with the baptism that Jesus will inaugurate. John the Baptist says that he has baptized with water, but that the one who is to come will baptize with the Holy Spirit. In accepting John’s baptism, Jesus, though sinless, united himself with all sinners. The descent of the Holy Spirit on Jesus at his baptism shows that something new is beginning through the baptism and ministry of Jesus. First, every time I read this gospel passage I am reminded of the ‘’newness’’ and ‘’identity’’ this sacrament brings to all of us. We become a new creature, share in His divine nature, and become His adopted children-our identity: ‘’Baptism not only purifies from all sins but also makes the neophyte “a new creature,” an adopted son of God, who has become a “partaker of the divine nature,” member of Christ and co-heir with him, and a temple of the Holy Spirit’’ (CCC 1265).
Second, Jesus’ baptism is a turning point in his life. With this event he is ‘anointed’ by the spirit and formally inaugurates his mission as Messiah. By sharing in Israel’s baptism of repentance, Jesus has committed himself fully to the Father’s call on his life: to be the obedient servant and do the will of his father. Mark’s Gospel moves quickly from the report of Jesus’ baptism to Jesus’ temptations in the desert to his ministry in Galilee (MK 1: 14-15) after John’s arrest. The Greek word arrested (paradidomi) literally means ‘’handed over.’’ The end of the ministry of John the Baptist is the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Through baptism, we are ‘handed over’ this mission of Christ. Analogously our Baptism inaugurates our mission as Christians. Our baptism empowers all of us to take part in the ministry of Christ to preach this good news of love and salvation to all. The Second Vatican Council Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, Apostolicam Actuositatem, stresses that there is really one vocation in the Christian life, and that is to share in the mission and ministry of Jesus Christ. This feast of the baptism of our Lord reminds us of this unique and personal Christian vocation and our role as members of His body, the church. We are sent forth from the baptismal waters to ‘’walk always as a child of light’’ and keep the flame of faith alive in our hearts. We are called to witness to our baptisms in our lives.
May today’s solemnity be a favorable opportunity for us to rediscover with joy the beauty of our own Baptism, which is an ever-timely reality if it is lived with faith: it ceaselessly renews within us the image of the new person, in holiness of thought and action. May the Virgin Mary obtain for us an ever-deeper understanding of the value of our Baptism and witness to it by leading a dignified life.
By Vijay Deivanayagam, OMI – Vocation Contact Central