January 7, 2022

Christ the Cornerstone

Sacrament of baptism brings us new life in Christ

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson

This Sunday, we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord. In the Gospel reading for Sunday’s Mass, we are told that a great miracle occurred after Jesus was baptized by John. According to St. Luke:

“I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. … After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased’ ” (Lk 3:16, 21-22).

The miracle is that God appears to us in one of the few recorded manifestations of the Holy Trinity in sacred Scripture.

At Jesus’ baptism, God reveals himself as the loving Father, as the beloved Son, and as the Holy Spirit (in the form of a dove) who is both our Comforter and a Blazing Fire. Jesus did not need to be baptized. He was sinless and, so, did not need the cleansing baptism of repentance that John administered.

What Jesus received when he submitted to this ritual baptism was his father’s blessing and the power of the Holy Spirit. From this moment on, when Jesus speaks and acts, when he heals or teaches or admonishes his followers, he acts in complete conformity with his Father and the Holy Spirit.

The sacrament of baptism is the reoccurrence of this miracle in the life of every Christian who dies to self in order to be reborn in Christ. The Trinity is present every time the sacrament of baptism is received because every baptism is a new creation, a dying to sin and death, and a rebirth in the Spirit. Every sacramental baptism is an action performed by the Holy Trinity because each time a person is reborn in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, God the Father is “well pleased” and he rejoices with the Son and the Holy Spirit in gratitude for this new life.

The first reading from the prophet Isaiah speaks of the Messiah, but it is also addressed to the people of Israel:

“Thus says the Lord:
Here is my servant whom I uphold,
     my chosen one with whom I am pleased,
upon whom I have put my spirit;
     he shall bring forth justice to the nations,
not crying out, not shouting,
     not making his voice heard in the street.
a bruised reed he shall not break,
     and a smoldering wick he shall not quench,
until he establishes justice on the Earth;
     the coastlands will wait for his teaching.
I, the Lord, have called you for the victory of justice,
     I have grasped you by the hand;
I formed you, and set you
     as a covenant of the people,
     a light for the nations,
to open the eyes of the blind,
     to bring out prisoners from confinement,
     and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness” (Is 42:1-4,6-7).

Christians believe these words of prophecy have been fulfilled in Christ, but we also read them in light of the baptismal responsibilities that each of us have accepted as missionary disciples of Jesus Christ.

Each baptized Christian is called to “establish justice on Earth,” and to “open the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.” We are called to “be Christ” for others—with humility, tenderness and mercy.

The new birth we baptized Christians have received is what St. Paul calls “the bath of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit” (Ti 3:5). We are given this gift “not because of any righteous deeds we had done but because of his mercy” (Ti 3:5). We are to be the instruments of God’s “kindness and generous love … so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life” (Ti 3:4, 7).

As we begin a new year of grace, let’s be conscious of the great gift—and the serious responsibility—that the sacrament of baptism has bestowed on us. Let’s pray that we will have the courage to be peacemakers, healers and joyful witnesses to the saving power of God—the Father, Son and Holy Spirit—who has blessed us with new life in Christ. May we always be faithful to our baptismal promises.

May we love God and our neighbor as beloved sons and daughters of our heavenly Father. May we journey together in synod following in the footsteps of Jesus and guided by the Holy Spirit.

A blessed New Year to all! †

Local site Links: