Reflections on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord

The Mass Readings from USCCB

Why was Jesus baptized, anyway? Why would God choose to get baptized? He certainly didn’t need what it is that baptism gives to a person. When you were baptized, three changes happened to you. First of all, the Original sin that you inherited from Adam and Eve was washed away. But this cleaning out of your soul was only so that God could put back in your soul what he intended to have dwell inside every person. In other words, this second change is more important than the first. This second change is God’s giving you the grace—the spiritual strength—to follow Jesus through this world.

As we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord today, what we are celebrating is a path that Jesus is making clear to us. This path is a path to freedom in our lives. Jesus certainly had no need to be baptized since He never committed any sin, and was never marked by Original Sin. But then again, Jesus never had to die on the Cross, either. Jesus did nothing in His life on this earth because He had to. He did everything freely. He did not hang upon the Cross because He was guilty of anything. He allowed Himself to be hanged on the Cross in order to take away the sins of the world, including your sins and mine.

Jesus did not have to be baptized, but He was baptized in order to demonstrate to us the first step on the path to salvation. Baptism is, so to speak, the “door of the Church”: when we pass through that door, we become members of the Church, and accept the responsibility of being a Christian, which in one phrase means accepting the call—the vocation—to holiness.

Accepting “the call to holiness” is what being a Christian means. Every Christian is called to be holy. Every Christian has a vocation, in fact, to be a “saint,” since the words “saint” and “holy” literally mean the same thing.

And yet, not every Christian is called to be holy in the same way. Every Christian is called to the waters of Baptism. But not every Christian lives out that vocation of holiness in the same way. Some Christians are called by God to the particular vocation of marriage; others, to the particular vocations of a religious order as a brother or sister; others, to the particular vocation of the single life; others, to the particular vocation of Holy Orders.

Each of these particular vocations reaches out into the world in a different way, and yet each of them flows from the same waters of Baptism. All of them demonstrate—in complementary ways—that the call to holiness means walking a path towards ever-greater holiness, towards a deeper share in the life of God.

Catholic Diocese of Wichita

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