What a glorious gift to be given God’s divine life in baptism and so be called children of God! Baptism is the beginning of becoming the Saintly people God wants us to be in order to enter into heaven. God gave us human life in cooperation with our parents.
Our Dad and Mom provided the physical material of our life, but it was God who directly created our spiritual soul. God made us in his image and likeness, thus, we have an intellect and a free will. We can know that which is good, and we have free will to choose to avoid evil, and choose the good.
Our spiritual soul organizes our body to be either male or female. Unfortunately, because of Original Sin, our bodies are imperfect, and it cannot fight off all sickness, disorder and death.
Our souls are also imperfect, and that is why we need the Sacrament of Baptism. Although baptism washes away Original Sin we have the effects of Original Sin, and thus our intellect is darkened – it is difficult to know the good – and our free will is weakened – even when we know the good, we sometimes fail to choose it.
Yet God loves us and gave us his divine Son, born of Mary – both of whom were free from Original Sin. Jesus Christ was given a perfect soul and body that would become a perfect sacrifice to the Father, and thus through his Body and Blood – the perfect sacrifice renewed at every Holy Mass – God is able to wash away venial sin, and through confession, God assuredly absolves us from our mortal sins confessed, all of which begins with the Sacrament of Baptism.
Today’s Solemnity of the Baptism of Jesus Christ shows us that John the Baptist, an imperfect man, can participate in God’s design of bringing God’s divine life to his chosen people.
This is Good News for priests, for like John the Baptist no priest is going to be perfect like Jesus Christ. Yet, when we sincerely cooperate in celebrating the sacraments worthily and with humility, we can be assured that God is sanctifying us.
We also see that Jesus is baptized, not to wash away Original Sin, but rather to make the waters of baptism holy. In other words, if we want to enter into the saving grace and life of Jesus Christ, we have to go through the waters of baptism.
We read Jesus’ words to his faithful apostles, after his Resurrection, in the last lines of the Gospel of Matthew: “All power in heaven and earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Teach them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” Mt. 28:18-20
Jesus is always with us through the indelible mark given to us at baptism, and preeminently through the Holy Eucharist, so that our baptismal grace can be protected, nourished and become mature by God working through the other sacraments and his Catholic Church’s teachings.
Finally, the Holy Spirit is revealed as a “dove” coming down upon Jesus. This reminds us of the dove of peace coming back to Noah’s ark after God had saved Noah and his family through the flood waters. At baptism we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. At the Sacrament of Confirmation, we are sealed by the Holy Spirit and given the full outpouring of his divine gifts to reach divine maturity.
As Catholics, we have the opportunity to cooperate with Jesus Christ and his Catholic Church to make our life holy through the Seven Sacraments, beginning with the gift of baptism. Let us celebrate with joy Jesus’ baptism, for he leads us prayerfully to the Eucharist that we might become the obedient and loving children of God for all eternity.
Peace in Christ,
Fr. Thomas McCabe