The Baptism of the Lord
It is sad that most of us do not recall our baptism, even though it is the most important moment of our lives to date, even more so than our birth into this world. For we were born into death; this does not detract from the value or goodness of being given life, mind you. But we are born into death; that precious but wounded life we have received depreciates almost immediately, as soon as we take our first independent breath. Then, often within days of that birth, something remarkable happens: our parents make the most important choice of our lives, reversing that choice made so long ago in Eden.
Christ did not need baptism; how could the Son of God ever be estranged from His Father? Yet by being baptized He sets the pattern for our own Christian lives, identifying Himself with us sinners and, more importantly, showing us the reality of baptism: we are immersed into the life of the Son of God and are thus reborn as children of the Father. Thus those thundering words of the Father apply to us: we, too, are His beloved sons and daughters with whom He is pleased, but it goes far deeper than that. It is John, actually, that tells of the fuller reality. Baptism is not merely an adoption but a true rebirth into a reality we cannot comprehend: we become, truly, children of God.
John says that the one coming after him will baptize with the Holy Spirit. The word “baptize” means to “immerse” or “bathe”: Jesus will bathe us in the Holy Spirit. What is the Holy Spirit? He is the very life of God: the Personified love perfectly shared between the Father and the Son. Consider this for a moment. In baptism, God the Father loves us with the very same Love with which He loves His only Begotten Son and, by receiving that Spirit, we are given the grace to love the Father with the same Love with which Jesus loves Him.
How rarely do we consider the gift of our baptism! Reflect on this gift today and, if you are able, find time to thank your parents or anyone else who had a significant role in your reception of this sacrament. Through the waters of baptism we are immersed in an even deeper sea, a bottomless abyss of Love beyond our wildest comprehension: we begin as the children of human parents and, by the grace of God, are reborn as true sons and daughters of the Most High. Our parents become priests, ministering in persona Patris—in the place of the Father—raising their children to know and love the One who has given them eternal life. Who are we to receive such a gift?