A reflection for the Baptism of the Lord, Year B
by Kristina Glicksman
What does it mean to be baptized?
John preached a baptism of repentance, but his baptism, a baptism of water, was only symbolic. The baptism of Christ, the baptism the Church offers us is more than a symbol of repentance. It has the power actually to wipe away every sin, personal and original, and all the punishments associated with them. Just like that.
Have you ever thought about how bewilderingly simple baptism is? It only requires water and a few words (I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit) - 18 in English. 18 simple words and a substance which makes up 71% of our planet. And the person saying those words can be anyone; they don’t even have to be Christian. God makes it so confoundingly easy for us to receive His mercy.
I wonder sometimes if that’s why so often we don’t appreciate it.
On the one hand, there are those of us who try to outdo one another with prayers and penances, looking down on others who can’t meet our standards, as though we would earn our way into Heaven, when in reality, all our striving can never make up for the evil that we do or heal the breach between our broken human nature and God’s divine perfection. The only thing that can do that is God’s mercy, and He gives it freely. All He requires is that we ask for it.
On the other hand, there are those of us who take God’s mercy for granted. God’s mercy is so free and so easy to obtain that we forget - or even refuse - to ask for it (after baptism, this would happen - sacramentally, at least - in confession). And so we go through life, doing as we please and presuming on God’s goodness, assuming that He will be merciful and forgetting that He is also just.
Why do we find it so hard to truly appreciate God’s mercy and the great gift of baptism?
Perhaps it is because it is hard for us to fathom what it truly means. Because baptism is not just forgiveness of sins. Baptism is also adoption. When we are baptized, we become children of God. This is not a figure of speech. This is a reality.
God has one begotten Son, Jesus. When our first parents condemned our race through their rebellion, God had a plan to redeem us - but not only to redeem us - to over
-redeem us, to make us more than we had been before. He sent His Son among us to live as one of us and to suffer and die, as we all do. And then he rose again from the dead with the promise that those of us who follow him will join him in his resurrection.
And how do we know this promise has been made to us
as individuals? By our baptism.
Just as when Jesus was baptized by John in the Jordan, each time one of us is baptized, it is a sign of God’s promise: “You are my beloved son (or daughter).” When we are baptized, we become not only Christians but other Christs.
When, with that in mind, I read passages like this Sunday’s reading from Isaiah, I admit my heart falters a bit and my spirit quails and all the failings and pettinesses of my life become more present to me.
There is no doubt that the servant of the Lord who brings justice to the nations is Jesus. But through our baptism, we become one with him, and he shares his mission with us. He is the head, we the body. It is us that the Lord sends to the nations of the earth to bring justice and through us that the eyes of the blind will be opened, prisoners will be freed, and those who live in darkness will be released from their dungeon.
What are we waiting for?
The readings for the Baptism of the Lord, Year B, are
Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7
Kristina Glicksman is Content Editor and Writer for Salt + Light Media.