The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord
January 12, 2020 – Year A
Readings: Is 42:1-4, 6-7 / Ps 29 / Acts 10:34-38 / Mt 3:13-17
by Father Louis Benoit, Guest Celebrant
Today is the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, and an interesting question is why did Jesus get baptized? He had no need of it, yet He did it. In Jesus’ baptism, He gets baptized in solidarity with us. He identifies with us in our simple state. He walks with us as we are.
That’s the baptism of Jesus, and of course, there is a good analogy here, in that we are made holy in the waters of baptism. Jesus, in His baptism, makes the waters holy. And so we have Jesus identifying with us, and He is identifying with us in a simple way, walking with the people, curing people, taking care of them, preaching to them, preaching a kingdom of peace and justice and love.
An interesting detail from the gospel is that the heavens were opened. This means that the barrier between God and humankind is now opened. And also Jesus experienced a conversion in His baptism. The Holy Spirit comes upon Him in the form of a dove – “This is my beloved son” – and from that point on, Jesus goes into the desert for forty days and starts His public life. So His baptism is a turning point in Jesus’s life, where he starts His public ministry.
What does baptism mean for us? You old people like me can recall that when a baby was born, the baby had to be baptized to take away original sin. But that’s not the primary focus of baptism. The primary focus is that baptism is incorporation into Christ Jesus. In baptism, we are made one with Jesus. And not just one with Jesus, but as Jesus comes to us in the Church, we are made one with Jesus and made a part of the community of believers. Baptism is first and foremost incorporation with Christ Jesus.
We still believe in original sin, but I think we see it more as something we are born into, rather than being born with. We are born into a world with a sinful inclination, and through baptism, through the grace of Christ, we hope not to be infected by this world where there is evil.
Baptism is the sacrament of ministry. Through baptism, we are all called to take the grace of Christ Jesus we’ve received, together with our talents and abilities, and bring Jesus to the world around us and help the Church be the reflection of Jesus that it should be. A baptism is the sacrament of ministry.
Again going back to the good old days, if you wanted to minister in the Church, you had to become a priest or a nun, and the people were quite passive. With Vatican II we opened that up and say that all are called to ministry. All are called to activity. And even in the Mass itself, look at how many more people are involved now than there used to be – lectors, Eucharistic ministers, choirs becoming more involved and active. It’s all part of baptism, the call to ministry. We used to see the priest as the minister, but I see that I am called to minister to and with the people, as people are called to minister with me and to me. It’s a universal calling – ministry. Baptism calls the ministers.