Truths and challenges of the summons of our baptism, Way of life
By baptism, a person becomes a Christian and a member of the Church. It is one of the seven Sacred Secrets, and with its reception, one is entitled to all other Holy Secrets and rituals in the church. Baptism is not some magical transformation. It empowers a person to develop and grow up by faith and works as prescribed by the gospel. The rite of baptism in the soul of the baptized realizes the birth of grace and the inner principle of spiritual perfection and blessing.
As the Lord’s baptism begins his public ministry, so - in similar fashion - our baptism is the birth of our discipleship. It is when God chooses us, adopts us, and welcomes us into his family. By our baptism, we become living members of the very Body of Christ. We are incorporated into his work for the salvation of humanity.
For the Holy Secret of Baptism, the basic substance is Holy Water, so it begins with the sanctification of water. Water is a symbol of purification and immersion in water is an expression of purification and repentance. The lighted candle represents the light of Christ and the incense reveals the Holy Spirit. Baptism is performed by immersion in water with the priest's saying of the words of baptism: "The Baptist of God is baptized in the Father and in the Son and in the Holy Spirit, and the Godfather confirms with "Amin". In addition to the Holy Secret of Baptism, the Holy Secret of anointing is also performed. The Priest coats with virgin olive Oil the body parts (forehead, eyes, nostrils, mouth, ears, chest, shoulders, arms and legs) through which we receive this world and utters the formula: "The seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit". Baptismal identity rocked the ancient world, as slave and nobleman worshipped together, as men and women were seen as equals, and as Jew and Gentile embraced as family. This baptismal identity, if taken seriously, can still rock our world today.
By living together as members of the Body of Christ, we are all called to follow his way of life. We are pushed and encouraged to live by “the most excellent way of love” and to adhere to a new standard of being, one which includes everything we do: from how we show mercy, to our approach towards the poor and sick, to the treatment of our bodies, to how we spend money, and to every other action - however important or trivial - in this life. Our baptism is about a constant dying to self in the service of Jesus Christ and the continuation of his saving mission in our world.
As the Church moves from the sacred events of Bethlehem, she directs her attention to the shores of the Jordan River. There at the Jordan, John the Baptist meets the Lord Jesus and baptizes him. It is a pivotal event, one which marks the beginning of the Lord’s public ministry.
In the Mass, believers are spiritually taken to the Baptism of the Lord and are called to relive and remember the power and glory of this moment: God the Father proclaims divine pleasure toward his only beloved Son and the Holy Spirit descends like a dove upon the Son.
In this singular action, the Divine Family of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit inaugurate the Lord’s public ministry and initiate the active work of humanity’s redemption.
Every Sunday is the Lord’s Day and, as a little Easter, every Sunday is a baptismal celebration. The Sabbath, therefore, is filled with actions that both renew and complete our baptism. As we enter the place of worship, we bless ourselves with holy water reminding ourselves of the waters of baptism, we repeat the Creed in which we declare our belief: “I confess one baptism for the forgiveness of sins,” and we participate in the baptismal sacrifice and meal of the Eucharist, which culminates in the reception of Holy Communion. In all these ways, we are affirming and fulfilling our baptismal in this life, and so stirring into flame our immense hope for everlasting life.
These are the truths and challenges that are put before us on this feast of the Baptism of the Lord. They remind us that baptism is not solely a sacramental ceremony, but is also a complete way of life. Baptism is not simply a ritual, but also involves the new identity of the baptized, and the baptismal way of life to which we are all called.
We have to decide whether or not we will heed the summons of our baptism and seek the graces of conversion and a deeper commitment to the way of the Lord Jesus. Today’s feast day echoes the invitation to love, forgive, welcome, and serve in Christ’s name. The choice to accept, neglect, or decline is ours.
The Holly Vally foundation strives to make accessible to all the feeling that the Holy Spirit descends on the ordinary water of the Jordan River and makes it extraordinary, makes it holy, which in turn brings the blessing of everything it touches.