With the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord, the Christmas Season comes to an end. The Church recalls Our Lord's second manifestation or epiphany which occurred on the occasion of His baptism in the Jordan. Jesus descended into the River to sanctify its waters and to give them the power to beget sons of God. The event takes on the importance of a second creation in which the entire Trinity intervenes.
Christ did not need the baptism of John. Although He appeared in the "substance of our flesh" and was recognized "outwardly like unto ourselves", He was absolutely sinless. He conferred upon the water the power of the true Baptism which would remove all the sins of the world: "Behold the Lamb of God, behold Him Who takes away the sin of the world".
Many of the incidents which accompanied Christ's baptism are symbolical of what happened at our 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 children 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.
On the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord a few years ago Pope Emeritus Benedict XV spoke to the parents of the children he would baptize that day in the Sistine Chapel. His words offer a profound reflection for all of us on this feast. He states:
“In Baptism, the Heavenly Father also repeats these words for each one of these infants. He says: ‘You are my child’. Baptism is adoption and admission into God's family, into communion with the Most Holy Trinity, into communion with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. For this very reason, Baptism should be administered in the Name of the Most Holy Trinity. These words are not merely a formula; they are reality. They mark the moment when your children are reborn as children of God. From being the children of human parents, they also become the children of God in the Son of the living God. These children of yours, whom we will now baptize, are not yet able to collaborate, to manifest their faith. For this reason, your presence, dear fathers and mothers, and yours, dear godfathers and godmothers, acquires a special value and significance. Always watch over your little ones, so that they may learn to know God as they grow up, love him with all their strength and serve him faithfully. May you be their first educators in faith, offering together with your teaching also the examples of a coherent Christian life. Teach them to pray and to feel as living members of the concrete family of God, of the Ecclesial Community.”
On this important feast we are reminded of our own baptism and those of our children and godchildren. How are we living up to our baptismal resolutions to lead lives of faith and holiness? Is Christ the center of our lives? Are we faithful to the sacramental life by attending Mass faithfully each week and regularly going to Confession? Do we offer good example of Catholic life to our children and godchildren?
Baptism remains throughout our lives as a gift of God, who has set his permanent seal on our souls. But it can only be lived out with our cooperation and our desire say to "yes" to Christ in our lives. We must joyfully and faithfully offer that “yes” in our daily lives. Also as parents and godparents we must not forget that it is our witness and our example of the Catholic faith, that has the greatest effect on the human and spiritual growth of our children and godchildren. Even in the sometimes frantic daily activities of our lives we must not neglect to pray and to foster prayer at home and at Church. Such a prayerful and sacramental life is the foundation of perseverance of our faith as Catholic disciples.
Since this is the end of the Christmas Season, take a final visit to the crèche this Sunday and ask the Holy Family to intercede for your intentions. We return to the Season of Ordinary Time on Monday and with it goes all the Christmas decorations. So I wish you a final Happy and Holy Christmas and Blessings for the New Year!
Be well. Do good. God Bless. Go Pats!