Feast of the Baptism of the Lord
January 13, 2019 Cycle C
by Rev. Jose Maria Cortes, F.S.C.E., Chaplain,
Saint John Paul II National Shrine,
Sunday Reading Meditations
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Today, on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, we commemorate the day when Christ descended into the waters of the Jordan. Jesus’ baptism is one of the three manifestations of the Lord’s divinity, the other two being the adoration of the Magi and the wedding at Cana.
When Jesus was baptized, the Most Holy Trinity manifested itself in the voice of the Father, which came down from heaven, and in the Holy Spirit’s descent upon Jesus in the form of a dove. Christ had himself baptized to reveal why he had come into the world: to enable us to participate in divine life. Today’s feast reminds us of our own Baptisms, through which we became children of God. As Saint Leo the Great said in a Christmas sermon, “Christian, remember your dignity.” Today is a day to celebrate our dignity.
God calls us to life and then has us born again from above through water and Spirit (cf. Jn 3:3‒5). Today’s first reading says: “I, the LORD, have called you for the victory of justice, I have grasped you by the hand; I formed you” (Is 42:6). Baptism is the means by which God grasps us with his infinite love. In our discovery that we are loved, we find true fulfillment of our deepest longing. Only God can quench our thirst for love, which no human love can satisfy. Through the water of the sacrament of Baptism, our sins are forgiven and our spirits are healed. The first reading says: “I set you as a covenant of the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness” (Is 42: 6‒7). In the second reading, Saint Peter says: “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power. He went about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil, for God was with him” (Act 10:38). Thus, Baptism has the power to destroy the Evil One’s influence over us.
The grace of Baptism only becomes effective with our collaboration. We have become new creatures but risk slipping back into our old ways. Since the day of our Baptism, we have been temples of the Holy Spirit, although there is still work to be done before the Spirit can take possession of our entire being.
What do we have to do? We need to allow the Holy Spirit to take complete possession of us through our personal conversion. The more we let the Spirit of God work in us, the less influence the Evil One has over us.
To convert means to increase our mindfulness of God’s love. On the day of our Baptism, we heard the voice of the Father in the secret of our hearts: “You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased” (Mt 3:17). On that day, we became children of God. Saint John says: “See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are. […] Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 Jn 3:1‒2). As Saint Leo the Great said, we must remember our dignity. We must constantly renew our amazement at the reality of what we are: children of God! Baptism is the seed of our divinization! One day we shall see God as he is. This vision will fill us with endless happiness. We shall be satisfied by the infinite sweetness of God. This hope purifies us, brings us from darkness to light. John also says: “Everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure, as he is pure” (1 Jn 3:3). Conversion is the purification of our hearts. Conversion is to remove everything incompatible with our dignity as children of God from our lives. The beauty of the divine life within us gives us the strength to fight sin. Contemplating God enables us to detach ourselves from evil. The more we grow in our intimacy with God, the more our lives become inwardly transformed.
Let us pray. May we be God’s children in name and in truth. May the celebration of the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord help us remember our dignity as children of God. May the Holy Spirit help us live the grace of our baptism with gratitude and amazement. May the experience of God’s love impel us to bear witness to our faith. Amen.
Sunday Reading Meditations