Baptism of the Lord

Reflection by Rev. Leonard N. Peterson

Many a joke has been told about the trial and tribulation that is part of most people’s dealings with their state’s DMV. I refer to the much maligned Department ofMotor Vehicles.
Its various ways and means conjure upimages of purgatory, especially with the demands it makeson our patience. This last is exacerbated with the restrictions brought on by the current pandemic. Already being bureaucracy at its worst, when one adds those in, I think then the experiences it creates for its users could be recorded as “Intimations of Purgatory.”

My needs were twofold: buying a car from a private seller, and renewing my driver’s license. Were I to tell you my whole story, including a suggestion from an official to “go have breakfast and we’ll text you when it’s near time for your spot in line to get serviced”, I believe you might giggle a little and think how it resembled an episode of “Seinfeld”.

My point in all this recall is to highlight the importance these days of carrying some proof on your person that you are who you claim to be. Today’s feast cele- brates the fact that at His baptism, Our Lord had no such need, for He received in spectacular fashion His authentication. God the Father said it in five words: “You are my beloved Son.”

However, you and I cannot remain simple observers of a passing scene in this case. The fact that Jesus was baptized, and declared God’s Son then and there brings to the fore a pair of religious obligations we all have inherit- ed as a result of our own baptism.

First is that we take our baptism very seriously, far from being just a happy memory caught by a collection of posed pictures of us as infants at the font. Second, we must take seriously every facet of Christ’s teaching in making decisions for action practically every day.

Most Catholic adults only confront the importance of their baptism when they visit the parish office seeking permission to be a godparent; or arranging a wedding; or setting up the baptism of their own new child.

The significance of this sacrament is the fact that it is the “gatekeeper” for the other six. It begins our full commitment to Christ, albeit made through our godparents, waiting for us to make it on our own. This automatically means that we are called to full participation in the life of the Church He founded, and identified Himself with as its Head.
What are some aspects of our commitment? For one, we may have to decide on any given Sunday, do I go to Mass, or junior’s soccer game? Do I opt for more sleep because I’ve had a hard week at work? Do I attend my daughter’s Confirmation class on Saturday or go instead to a ballet performance? Basic items but real cases. And those are only the beginning.

Our baptism gave us our permanent identity and it involves far more than a cleansing from original sin. I leave it up to you to research the whole beautiful treatment of the sacrament given by the Church from her earliest days. Refresh your earlier learning by finding online the beautiful truths presented by the official Church catechism.
Meanwhile, here is rich food for thought from C.S. Lewis, one of the best exponents of the Christian faith: “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen. Not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

God love you and give you His peace.

Reading I: Isaiah 42: 1-4, 6-7, or 55: 1-11
God speaks as He would to a heavenly court, and promises that He will give His Spirit to the coming Messiah. We also learn about the power of God’s Word, which never goes unfulfilled. The Messiah will be “a light to all nations.”

Reading II: Acts 10: 34-38, or I John 5: 1-9
This letter of John joins obedience to love. It is incumbent on us to believe that Jesus is the Son of the Father, and that His death for sin brings us eternal life.

The Gospel: Mark 1: 7-11
John the Baptist again exhibits his humility before Jesus, as he declares himself unworthy to do what was normally a slave’s task: loosening Jesus’ sandal straps. “Wind and fire” describe the coming of the kingdom and precede the proclamation of Our Lord’s true identity.