The Baptism of the Lord
First reading: Is 42:1-4, 6-7 or Is 40:1-5, 9-11
Responsorial Psalm: 29:1-4, 9-10 or Psalm 104:1-4, 24-25, 27-30
Second reading: Acts 10:34-38 or Ti 2:11-14, 3:4-7
Gospel: Lk 3:15-16, 21-22
By Jem Sullivan
The beginning of a new year is a perfect time to start afresh. We make New Year’s resolutions to improve our health, our habits, our relationships and our work. Deep down in all of us is our longing for a second chance.
As we grow older, we learn that our shortcomings should not and do not define us. Rather, our sinfulness is an opportunity to turn a new leaf or a new page. The start of a new year gives a fresh chance to begin anew.
The same is true of our spiritual life and our relationship with God.
Each day, we live in the mercy of God’s forgiving love with the divine invitation to turn to God and start anew. Perhaps we will make spiritual resolutions to pray more consistently, to read God’s word more faithfully, and to love others more genuinely.
Such spiritual resolutions express our desire to live out the meaning of our baptism. For it was at baptism that we were first given the astonishing new chance to live in Christ. Baptism is the beginning of a new life of grace in Christ by which we are reconciled to God.
Today, the church celebrates the feast of the Baptism of the Lord when Jesus begins his public ministry after being baptized by St. John the Baptist in the Jordan. Jesus is baptized as a manifestation of his self-emptying love that culminates in his sacrifice on the cross. From the blood and water that flowed from Jesus’ side on the cross, the fountain of a new life of divine grace was opened to you and me. What a gift of God!
The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that the “fruit of baptism, or baptismal grace, is a rich reality that includes forgiveness of original sin and all personal sins, birth into new life by which man becomes an adoptive son of the Father, a member of Christ, and a temple of the Holy Spirit. By this very fact, the person baptized is incorporated into the church, the body of Christ, and made a sharer in the priesthood of Christ” (No. 1279).
After Jesus was baptized, the heavens opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him as a dove. Then a voice from heaven was heard, “You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased” (Lk 3:22).
Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan opened the path of our spiritual rebirth so we are not left in our weakness and sin. Jesus sanctifies the waters of baptism so we might daily live the gift of new divine life in the power and strength of the Holy Spirit.
This gift of grace is given to all, no matter how great or small our weaknesses or failings. This divine grace, we first received at baptism, gives us the confidence to begin our spiritual journeys anew as we pray in hope, “speak to me, Lord.”
What does your baptism mean to you?
Sullivan is secretary for Catholic education of the Archdiocese of Washington.