From the Pastor – January 2, 2022

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 3:21-22)

This weekend we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord. For centuries, Christians have celebrated the season of Christmas as twelve days between Christmas and Epiphany.  The season ends with our celebration of the Lord’s Baptism.

The public life of Jesus begins with his baptism by John in the Jordan.  John hesitates, but Jesus insists. Then the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, comes upon Jesus and a voice from heaven proclaims, “This is my beloved Son.”  Similarly to the visitation of the magi, this is an “epiphany” – a manifestation of Jesus as Messiah and Son of God.

The Baptism of the Lord is the acceptance and inauguration of Christ’s mission as God’s suffering Servant. He allows himself to be numbered among sinners, and he becomes “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” – a title originally given to Christ by John the Baptist.

Baptism in water and the invocation of the Trinity is a real sharing in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  As St. Paul tells us in his Letter to the Romans: “Or are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life.  For if we have grown into union with him through a death like his, we shall also be united with him in the resurrection.”

Through Baptism a Christian is sacramentally configured to Jesus, who anticipates His death and resurrection in his own baptism. The Christian must enter into this mystery of humble self-abasement and repentance, go down into the water with Jesus in order to rise with him.

The story of Christ’s Baptism reminds us that the Holy Spirit comes down upon us from heaven.  The voice of the Father reminds us that we are sons of God.

Theologically speaking, Baptism creates an indelible mark on the soul.  It makes us members of the body of Christ, and renders us able to receive other sacraments. Foremost among the gifts of Baptism is the ability – because we are configured to Christ – to praise and worship the Father in the Holy Spirit, and to be found pleasing to God through such worship.

In the early Church, the baptismal font was placed in the courtyard or near the entrance of the church, and the practice continues in many places today.  We “entered” the Body of Christ at the moment of our Baptism.  As you dip your fingers into the font and make the sign of the cross each time you enter St. Stephen Church, remember it is by the power of your Baptism that you render fitting and pleasing worship to God in your spiritual sacrifice of holiness of life and, most fully, the Eucharistic sacrifice.

(Rev. Msgr.) Christopher H. Nalty
msgr.nalty@gmail.com