Feeling useless, unworthy, a failure? Let our Baptism transform us into self-accepting, empowered persons
After the Baptism of his baby brother, little Johnny sobbed all the way home in the back seat of the car. His father asked him three times what was wrong. Finally, the boy replied, “That priest said he wanted us brought up in a Catholic home, but I want to stay with you guys.”
I love this little joke because we rarely call ourselves a Catholic home: we just try to live our lives in a Christian way. As we reflect on this, can we identify what prevents us from creating a Christian home? One important point relevant to the Baptism of Christ is unhealed past hurts.
We either receive healing or we pass the hurt on to others. On the positive side, after healing, we can become the wounded healer for others.
It’s a nice arrangement that Ordinary Time begins with Baptism. As it symbolises the beginning of our life in the Church, we begin a new year trying to create an authentic Church. Have you ever asked why we celebrate the Baptism of Jesus? Perhaps because many people reduce Baptism to washing away original sin, which Jesus didn’t have.
However, Baptism is more than original sin. It touches our present and future emotional needs: FIRST, as a welcome: creating a formal relationship between God and each person. This meets our emotional need for BELONGING: “my chosen one in whom my soul delights.”
SECOND, it’s a blessing of encouragement and affirmation: God’s favour rests on you! This meets our emotional need for LOVE: “He does not break the crushed reed.”
Only THIRDLY is it about washing away the past, receiving forgiveness, and starting again. This third point about forgiveness, also needs further explanation: Baptism is more about HEALING for past hurts received from others, and having a new start, than about the mistakes we have made: “Faithfully He brings true justice.”
When we feel lost, ashamed by abuse or suffering abandonment, Baptism mentally reverses the downward spiral of descent into despair and loss of self-worth. This Baptismal Healing – a Cosmic healing from beyond our local suffering – is not just a one-time moment, but can be recalled all through life whenever we suffer because of others: “to free captives from prison.”
We recall this every Sunday, and especially when our children are baptised. We live in a broken world & hurting people: we will be wounded. The question is: how do we deal with it?
Baptism helps each of us to know that God has accepted us and that God is committed to helping us. The humanity of Jesus needed Baptism he needed to belong, and be Blessed.
In the process, the divinity of Jesus made holy the water that touched him, and so made holy the waters of Baptism for us.
Water is described as soft or hard, depending on the minerals in it. Water can have temporary hardness by the presence of bicarbonate and calcium ions. Water can also have permanent hardness by the presence of calcium & magnesium sulphates.
For temporary hardness, simply boiling the water will cause the minerals in the water to precipitate and separate out in the water (the white bits in the jug/kettle): easy to remove.
But permanent hardness requires more serious measures to make it soft again. It requires special treatment: perhaps soda water or filtering it through special soil or carbon (permutit process). https://www.kullabs.com/classes/subjects/units/lessons/notes/note-detail/905
The water that comes from the sky (a great analogy for Heaven), is soft and does not contain contaminates, except through our pollution in the air as it falls (eg. acid rain). The Baptism of Jesus is an invitation from God to allow ourselves to undergo a filtration process through Christ: to remove the permanent hardness in our lives (pain and bad habits).
Our temporary hardness (venial sins) are usually removed by the “boiling” of our friends or parents. The voice of our Father in Heaven, speaking words of blessing on Jesus is a sign that God wishes to bless each of us who acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God.
Today’s Feast is especially important for mothers and fathers: our children need to be blessed, not just with actions of love, but also with words of affirmation, encouragement and praise. Without the encouragement of parents, it’s difficult for youth to be confident in their lives.
Pope Francis inspired many when he came to Kenya in 2015, and spoke to the youth and said: How do you come out of this very negative experience? There is one remedy, one remedy alone, to come out of these experiences. To do that which you did not receive. If you didn’t receive understanding, then be understanding with others. If you felt the pain of loneliness come close to those who are alone; flesh is cured by flesh and God became flesh in order to cure us, let’s do the same ourselves. www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/full-text-of-pope-francis-powerful-unscripted-talk-with-kenyas-youth-72927/
By Gerard Conlan, OMI