2022-01-09 - THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE BAPTISM OF CHRIST. A reflection for the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, Year C. Author: Rev. Fr. Donatus Okeke
Readings: 1st: Isaiah 40:1-5.9-11; 2nd: Titus 2:11-14;3:4-7; Gospel: Luke 3:15-16.21-22
The baptism of Christ is symbolic. With the baptism of Christ, baptism receives the status of a sacrament. It is no longer the Jewish ritual of purification or John's baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sin.
Today's feast, traditionally marks the end of the Christmas season as well as the beginning of the Ordinary time of the liturgical year. The baptism of Jesus ushered him into his public ministry. He was no longer confined in the family of Nazareth. This helps us to understand the Church’s idea of beginning the Ordinary time of the liturgical year after the celebration of the feast of baptism.
JOHN’S BAPTISM VERSUS THE BAPTISM OF CHRIST (CHRISTIAN BAPTISM)
Just as John prepared the way of the Lord, his baptism equally prepared for the baptism of Christ. Thus, we can say that John’s baptism laid the foundation for the Christian baptism. There may be some similarities between the baptism of John and that of Jesus Christ, but they are not the same. Even John himself confirmed this difference in today’s Gospel: “I baptize you with water; but he who is mightier than I is coming,… he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” (Luke 3:16).
Let us consider some differences between the baptism of Christ and that of John.
1.The baptism of Christ is superior to that of John. The baptism of John was more of a religious ritual. The baptism of Christ goes beyond mere ritual. It has an ontological configuration.
2.The Trinitarian presence during Jesus’ baptism. The voice that was heard in today’s Gospel is that of the Father. The dove, represented the Holy Spirit. Of course, Jesus was present. The Christian is baptized in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit. John’s baptism does not enjoy this.
3.It was the baptism of Christ that upgraded baptism to the level of being a sacrament. The baptism of Jesus Christ (Christian baptism) is a sacrament and that of John is not.
4.The baptism of John was temporary and provisionary. It was a preparatory to that of Jesus Christ.
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE BAPTISM OF CHRIST
John’s baptism was for repentance and forgiveness of sin. Why should he that is holy (Jesus) receive this baptism? Since Jesus is God, he does not need to get incorporated into the family of God.
1.The baptism of Jesus was to sanctify the waters of baptism. Christ is baptized not that he may be sanctified in the waters, but that he himself may sanctify the waters, and by his own purification may purify those streams that he touches.
2.This was to re-assert his solidarity with humanity.
3.The baptism of Jesus confirmed his being the Son of God (divinity). We receive our own confirmation as adopted sons of God, during our baptism. And we enter into communion with the Trinity.
4.This was to emphasize the necessity of baptism. Anyone who wants to be a Christian must be baptized.
5.The voice of the Father confirmed that Jesus was his beloved son; ‘with whom he is well pleased’. As adopted sons and daughters of God, is he pleased with your actions? Are our earthly parents, pleased with our actions?
6.For St. Augustine, Christ was baptized because, “he wished to do what he will command all to do”. Jesus is always an exemplary leader. Thus, we must be able to show good examples to others.
7.Can you imagine John an ordinary man baptizing Jesus (God)? This explains the self-abasement of Christ –stripping himself of his divinity. Jesus came to be baptized with others in the River Jordan. This is a sign of humility. Christians must learn this.
8.Jesus’ public mission started after his baptism. Thus, baptism is a preparation for mission. Christians must be ready for mission, since they have received the sacrament of baptism.
Beloved in Christ, the baptism of Jesus Christ reminds us of our baptism. Majority of us were baptized as infants. Today, we are called to renew our own baptismal vows and the gifts of the Holy Spirit we received.
May God help us.