After the Baptism of his baby brother in church, little Johnny sobbed all the way home in the back seat of the car. His father asked him three times what was wrong. Finally, the boy replied, That priest said he wanted us brought up in a Christian home, but I want to stay with you guys.
Perhaps we can all relate to this joke in one way or another; after all, there is no denying the fact that for many Catholics, baptism is the first and last time they see the inside of a church! And unfortunately, even for those who practice their faith on a regular basis, there is often little sense of the connection between the faith professed at Mass on Sunday and how we live out that faith the rest of the week.
That’s why today’s feast of the Baptism of the Lord is so important! For it not only reminds us of the grace and mercy of God we received when we were first welcomed into the Church as children of God and washed clean of the stain of original sin, but it serves as a powerful reminder of how at Baptism we receive the call to participate in the ongoing mission of salvation, and that’s a lifelong commitment!
Just as we heard from the prophet Isaiah in today’s first reading that the servant of the Lord is called to be a light for the nations, to open the eyes of the blind, to bring our prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness, so are we called by virtue of our Baptism to share Christ’s healing and liberating presence with others at home, in the workplace, at school, at the supermarket, or behind the wheel of the car. Wherever we are is where we are called to be Christ for others!
How do we know this to be true? Because it was at our own Baptism that Christ first shared his light with us, when he opened our eyes that were blinded by sinfulness and selfishness, when he freed us from our enslavement to self-entitlement and greed, and when he brought us out of the darkness and loneliness of our separation from God and others so that we might live in communion with him and with all of our sisters and brothers in Christ.
Jesus accepted Baptism by John in the Jordan so as to show us the way to freedom, not just freedom from sin but freedom for living in Christ’s light and participating in his ongoing work of reshaping and refashioning the world in God’s image and likeness and of extending to all people the invitation to experience and accept a personal relationship with the One who, as we are reminded in the second reading from the Acts of the Apostles, shows no partiality but loves all of us equally and unconditionally.
May our efforts to put our faith into action by living out the call of our Baptism bear much fruit by drawing us and others closer to Christ, and may our faith journey lead us, one day, to our eternal home with God in heaven.