Today we celebrate the feast of the Baptism of the Lord and the ending of the Christmas Season. From the timeline of the synoptic Gospels, Mark, Matthew, and Luke, this is a significant step in the life of Jesus. After his baptism, he immediately goes into the desert for forty days and following that period, he will begin his public ministry.
It is good to occasionally reflect on our baptismal vows. Especially now that we can dip our fingers into the Holy Water again. When we bless ourselves with the signing of the Cross, we participate in this action to affirm that we choose again to live by the baptismal vows made on our behalf by our parents and Godparents.
In reflecting in this way, we may see this feast as important to us as well. Jesus was not participating in baptism as an act of repentance, he was joining in solidarity with us in our fallen and sinful nature, while at the same time affirming that we are not destroyed by sin but only wounded. Jesus came to redeem us, to save us, to help to reconcile our fractured relationship with his Father.
We recall and celebrate this reality that the Son of God, non-being, Infinite Act of Existence, became a finite, human being and then even assumed our sinfulness, while remaining sinless himself. The pure, unblemished, Lamb of God began the process that would end in his death on the cross. He was willing to participate in John’s baptism and in his crucifixion because he loved his Father and was willing to follow his Father’s will all the way. He was willing to show unconditional love for us, by giving his life for us, not because we are perfect, but in our imperfection.
We have choices each and every day, each and every moment to make. We can turn our away from our God our Father and listen to false promises, apparent goods, and give in to temptations and diversions that may satisfy for the moment but leave us empty over time. We can live a life for our self alone working toward an eternity of eternal separation from the one who loves us more than we can ever know. Or, we can choose to participate in the plan that God has for us and to follow Jesus in the way he has and continues to reveal. We can actualize our potential and experience the joy and meaning of a life of fulfillment that is working toward a life of eternity with God while at the same time helping others to do the same.
How come Jesus never sinned? Because he never said no to his Father. He always said yes. Jesus’ baptism made a difference for us not for him. He took upon our sin as he would do again on the Cross. Our baptism, in which we were indelibly marked, eternally conformed to Jesus, made a difference. But our baptism, our being born again, born from above, is just the beginning. God the Father has a part for us to play in bringing about his kingdom. It does not matter how small. We are called to be holy, we are called to be saints. Each and every one of us, each and every day, are invited to say yes to God’s will and commit to playing our part in salvation history.
We are not alone in this endeavor. The saints in a stained glassed window, with the light shining through, are not just there for adornment. They are examples and reminders of those, though sinners and imperfect like us, made a decision that their baptism mattered, that they were going to say yes to God, that day, and each day that followed. They allowed the light of Christ to shine through them to others.
We can do the same, as the saints cheer us on. The Father and the Son have also sent the Comforter, the Holy Spirit to empower us through his love, to give us the guidance, the ears to hear, and the courage to act. All that needs to happen for us to begin and continue to live out our baptismal call is to say yes, today, tomorrow, and the next day, and in each moment to the will of our Loving God and Father.
Photo: Stained glass window of Jesus and the Apostles, taken at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Los Angeles.