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Reflection - Baptism of the Lord

Do you remember when you were baptized? Probably not. Why not? Because most of us were infants. Unless you were older when you were baptized, you just don’t remember. How can something so important happen to us when we would not remember. We certainly did not know what it meant when we were baptized, but our parents knew. In the early Church, people were baptized when they were adults, and they better knew what was happening.

Did you ever wonder why Jesus was baptized? After all, he didn’t need Baptism to take away sin. Can’t you just picture Jesus coming up out of the water, his body drenched, his beard dripping, his hair matted and stringy. His garments covered with dirt? As he comes to shore, he couldn’t look less like the Son of God, the promised Redeemer. So why was he baptized? His baptism in the Jordan had a deeper meaning. It meant conversion, not necessarily from sin, but rather a turning towards a particular way of life, a public declaration of his mission. From that point on he would be defined as God’s Son, God’s envoy, God’s prophet, God’s lover. “I came to do the will of him who sent me.”

Jesus wasn’t just divine; he was human, too. Did Jesus know exactly what lay before him? Did he understand what would be asked of him? Did he know from the start how this would all end? Did he see a clear picture of how his life would unfold? I think it’s safe to say that he didn’t always know. Yet, that didn’t stop him from stepping out in faith each day, with a single purpose – to serve God in all things, in every word and in every action.

And the same is true for us. Our lives don’t always unfold as we had planned or hoped. What God is asking of us is often unclear. Most of us can’t easily connect the dots or see God’s fingerprints in the circumstances in which we find ourselves. Oh, occasionally we may get a glimpse of what God is up to or what our role is in the drama that is unfolding. But for most of us, those memorable moments are few and fleeting. Most of us are simply asked to do our best to take what we believe in faith, take our life experiences, take the ups and downs of life, and still find the courage to do what we can to serve God, even though we might not see the path ahead.

That’s partly what our own baptisms are all about. We may not remember when it happened, but as we grow older we realize the mission entrusted to us. When we emerged from those waters, we didn’t do it alone. We did so united with Christ in a very particular way, united with his death and resurrection. And this bond we have with him is more than just some kind of spiritual insurance. No, this union with him is also a union with his mission, a pledge to continue his work on this earth.

Today we have a chance to renew our commitment of faith as we renew our baptismal promises, either at Mass or at home. In our baptism, as in the baptism of Jesus, we celebrate God’s welcoming love, a love that comes prior to anything we may have done and prior to anything we may yet do. And the wonder of it all is that each day God renews his love for us and each day he speaks to us tender words about who we are and what we have done and what we can do. “You are my beloved son; you are my beloved daughter.” Hear what he says to you.

“I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Today, let us take each our baptism with the greatest seriousness – as a promise to continue to forgive when it’s not easy, to be generous when we’re challenged, to show compassion and kindness to those who can’t repay, and to love without counting the cost. Where that leads, well, only God knows. Where that ultimately leads – well, we have a pretty good idea.

If you have a brief faith reflection on today’s reading that you would like to share, please send it to me at deaconruss@holyspiritunoh.org.