Baptism of the Lord, Year B

Is 55:1-11; 1Jn 5:1-9; Mk 1:7-11

 If John’s baptism of repentance was not for the forgiveness of sin, then why did Jesus, who has no sin, submit himself for baptism? Here is John’s answer: I have baptized you in water; he will baptize you in the Holy Spirit (Mk 1:8).

Thus, John’s baptism was only a temporary rite in preparation for the coming of the savior. By submitting to baptism of repentance, Jesus wanted to ratify John’s mission and approve his work of preparation. Jesus also showed humankind the importance and necessity of the future sacrament of baptism, which, he would institute later.

 Even though not a sacrament of baptism, Jesus’ baptism also marked a decisive moment in his public life. When Jesus was baptized, a voice of approval was heard from heaven:

You are my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased (Lk 3:22). With the voice from heaven, Jesus was acknowledged by God the Father as the one who came to redeem humankind. The voice from heaven is closely related to Isaiah’s verse in the suffering servant of Yahweh: Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased (Is 40:1).

 The word Son in Saint Luke’s Gospel is substituted for the word servant in Isaiah’s verse, which implies Jesus who is the suffering servant and who takes upon himself the sins of the world. That is what John the Baptist introduced Jesus: Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (Jn 1:29).

 The baptism of Jesus reminds us of our own baptism, which marks the beginning of our faith life. Our life of faith begins when we are baptized. In our baptism, we become a new creation with a new life. Baptism is a participation in the death and resurrection of Jesus, i.e., through baptism, we have died to sin in order to live with Christ in grace. That is the meaning of Jesus’ words to Nicodemus: No one can enter into God’s kingdom without being begotten of water and Spirit (Jn 3:5). Later on Jesus instituted the sacrament of baptism: Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations. Baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Mt 28:19).

 Baptism is not a passport to enter the kingdom of heaven. We can show others all kinds of certificates we have: certificate of baptism, certificate of first communion, certificate of confirmation, certificate of marriage and so on. However, it is not necessary that we are living our faith and practicing it. We may have been baptized for a long time, but our life has not changed. Our life of faith is still dry and insipid. Why is it so? Perhaps we do our religious acts in a mechanical way and in a routine fashion. We have bargained with God for a cheap price of being his disciples.

 When baptized, the faithful must express a spirit of repentance. However, how can children express repentance at baptism? Here, parents, godparents and the whole Christian community should express a spirit of repentance for children at baptism.

To remind the faithful of the baptism they have received, each year at Easter Mass,

the Church asks the faithful to renew our baptismal promises, that is to reject sin,

Satan and the glamor of evil. The Church also asks the faithful to renew our faith in God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Finally, the faithful are asked to renew our faith in the Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.

 Baptism is a big event in the life of the Christian, no matter how little we were. Either we were baptized at an early age, or at a mature age, we have to find out the meaning of our baptism. If we are baptized as adults, we need to have conviction about our faith and religion. If we were baptized as infants, we have to ratify the faith we received at baptism. We cannot depend and rely on the faith of our parents and Godparents forever.

We have to learn to stand on our own feet as far as faith is concerned. When the seed of faith has been planted in our lives, we have to nurture it and take care of it, if we want our faith to grow and bear fruit.

 A prayer for realizing the importance of baptism:

 Oh Lord Jesus Christ!

Through your baptism of repentance by John,

you ratified his mission.

You instituted the sacrament of baptism

for the forgiveness of sin.

We pray for those who believe in you without being baptized.

Grant that they may realize the importance of the sacrament of baptism.

And for those who have been born in water and Spirit,

may they continue to walk in the light of faith. Amen.

 John Tran Binh Trong