We are now at the end of the Christmas season with the feasts of the Epiphany (January 6 – the twelfth day of Christmas) celebrated on Sunday, January 8 and the feast of the Baptism of Our Lord Jesus Christ. In the current liturgical year the latter feast is being celebrated on Monday January 9. The feast marks the end of the liturgical season of Christmastide. The following day the first of the two periods of Ordinary Time begins.
As Lord he was born without original sin and he lived without committing sin. The Church teaches that Baptism is necessary for the remission or forgiveness of sins. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC #1224) helps us to understand the answer to this question: Our Lord voluntarily submitted Himself to the baptism of Saint John, intended for sinners, in order to “fulfil all righteousness”. Jesus’ gesture is a manifestation of His self-emptying. The Spirit who had hovered over the waters of the first creation descended then on the Christ as a prelude of the new creation, and the Father revealed Jesus as His “beloved Son”.
Jesus’ public life begins with his Baptism by John in the Jordan (Lk 3:23). The Baptist hesitates, but Jesus insists and receives Baptism. Then the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, comes upon Jesus and a voice from heaven proclaims, “This is my beloved Son”(Mt 3:13-17). This is the manifestation (“Epiphany”) of Jesus as Messiah of Israel and Son of God.
While the public life of Jesus began with His Baptism, it ended with Jesus commanding the Apostles to “go and make disciples of all, baptising them in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that He had commanded them” (Mt 28:19-20). These words of Jesus from the Bible teach Christians the great importance of the Sacrament of Baptism.
Our lives as baptised Catholics
The feast presents an excellent opportunity for the faithful to be reminded of their rebirth as children of God in Baptism. The greatest of gifts is ours in baptism: God’s very own life and love. A life to overcome the death which is our inheritance from Adam’s sin, a love to overpower and win us away from love of self to love of God for his own sake and our neighbours for his glory.
Another of the baptismal gifts we receive is the ability, in Christ, to praise and worship the Father in the Holy Spirit, and to be found pleasing to God as we do so.
Celebrate this feast by reflecting on our own baptism
When were you baptised? At what church were you baptised? Who was the priest? Who were your Godparents? Do you still have your baptism garment, your baptism candle? Do you celebrate your Baptism birthday?
The baptismal font was often placed in the courtyard or near the entrance of early churches, and the practice continues in many places today. We “entered” the Body of Christ at the moment of our baptism. We became worshipping members of the Son, pleasing and beloved by the Father, through our baptism. This is why holy water fonts are placed near the entrance of our churches.
An extract from the homily of His Holiness Benedict XVI on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord in 2009 can help us in reflecting;
“…and if Christmas and Epiphany serve primarily to render us capable of seeing, of opening our eyes and hearts to the mystery of a God who comes to be with us, then we can say that the Feast of the Baptism of Jesus introduces us into the daily regularity of a personal relationship with him. Indeed, by immersion in the waters of the Jordan, Jesus united himself with us. Baptism is, so to speak, the bridge he built between himself and us, the road on which he makes himself accessible to us. It is the divine rainbow over our lives, the promise of God’s great ‘yes’, the door of hope and, at the same time, the sign that indicates to us the path to take actively and joyfully in order to encounter him and feel loved by him.” – Catechetical Staff, Archdiocesan Catechetical Office