The Baptism of the Lord

Baptism was the way in which Our Lord presented himself to his people at the outset of his mission.  By the banks of the River Jordan we see him, the sinless one, joining the crowds of sinners and taking his place in the long queue of people who were turning towards God and repenting of their sins.  By being baptised Our Lord identified himself with us and he took upon his own shoulders the tremendous burden and responsibility of our sins, and he began gathering all people into the family of God: the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.  It was such an important moment that we see the heavens opened and we hear the voice of God the Father himself confirming for the whole world that: This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.  Our Lord’s Baptism was the event to which mankind had been looking forward to, because it brought God’s light into a world of shadows and confusion, and it opened up the possibility of a new relationship for people with their Creator: a relationship which had been lost through the sin of our first parents, what we call Original Sin.  This restored relationship unites us so intimately with Christ that we too can be called God’s children.

On this feast we are reminded of our own Baptism and we should reflect on the implications of leading a good Catholic life; that is, a good, moral, and upright life.  We all know that Baptism is so much more than just a social formality to be gone through by parents of new-born children.  Baptism marks our spiritual birth: the beginning of Almighty God literally humbling himself, reaching down from the glory of heaven and touching our finite lives, claiming us for his own and adopting us as his children.  Our parents and godparents spoke on our behalf when they introduced us into the life and community of the Church as infants, but as adults we have to ratify and act out in our daily lives that decision made on our behalf.  And we do that when we ask for and receive the Sacrament of Confirmation.  Through Baptism Our Lord introduces himself into our lives with the message that we are free from the debt of Original Sin and that we have been restored and reconciled with the God who loves us so much that he died for us.  And so through baptism we belong to God’s Family, the Church, and we can truly call God our Father.

Now, it goes without saying that belonging to God’s family involves obligations to be undertaken and decisions to be made about how we are going to lead our lives.  In the way we live our lives we have the Church to guide and protect us.  The Church is truly our Mother and it is the role of a mother to form, guide and protect her children.  I’m sure you will all agree that being a good Catholic, especially today, is far from easy; even in the seclusion of the convent we are faced with so many temptations and distractions to lead us off the straight and narrow path that we need help to be faithful.  In the Church we have the guarantee that if we are faithful and we persevere and if we live our lives according to God’s Law and the teachings of the Church, then we shall merit a place in God’s eternal presence, and we will hear those consoling words of Our Lord when we are judged: Well done, good and faithful servant, enter now into the joy of your Father.

And so, we are all called to follow in Our Lord’s footsteps by living out our faith; and this of necessity requires a certain strength of character and will, and it calls us to stand apart from the crowd and be counted.  A committed follower of Christ is seen by the way he or she lives, not so much by what they say.  After all, words are cheap and ever more disposable.  The greatest sermon or homily we can ever preach doesn’t consist in many moving or inspiring words, but rather in the witness of a Christian life lived well and to the full.  In other words, we are to put into practice what we preach with our lips.

Coming to Mass on Sunday and Holydays is only the beginning for us.  Attendance and participation at Mass is only the foundation upon which we build the rest of our Christian lives.  Only by putting our faith into practice will we behave as beloved sons and daughters in whom the Father is well pleased.

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