Baptism of the Lord, 7th January 2012

The Birthday of Christ begins the season of Christmas and now this Sunday the Baptism of Christ brings an end to the season. We go back to ordinary time as well as resuming our tasks and lives - back to school, work, and routine.

But before we do so, before all the decorations are put away for another year and all the cards are recycled, the Church invites us to take another look at our baptism in commemorating the Baptism of Jesus – and its relevance and importance in our lives.

For each of us our physical birth to our mother and father begins a close relationship of dependency, of nurturing and love as well as membership of a family and taking our rightful place in the family home.

But in some cultures the 'name-day' or christening date is celebrated or marked more significantly than one's birthday. It is the day after all we began our son-ship/daughter-ship as members of God's family. It is our spiritual birthday. Why not find out when you were baptised, and commemorate it annually?

Baptism is a spiritual rebirth, we belong to Mother Church and are nurtured by the sacraments, and we are at home in the Church with our spiritual kinship to our brothers and sisters. St Augustine said "he will not have God for his Father who would not have the Church for his mother."

Our obligations and responsibilities towards the other members of our own human family, brothers and sisters etc., are mirrored by the relationship and responsibilities to our brothers and sisters in Christ.

But baptism involves this and much more on a spiritual level.

We can remind ourselves often of our great dignity and calling through Baptism, by utilising each of the letters of BAPTISM to help us to realise the implications of the Sacrament.

B is for Beloved.
God the Father describes Jesus at His Baptism as His ‘beloved’ Son. We too are beloved of the Father through our Baptism and this is an unfathomable mystery that God takes the initiative to love us who are so undeserving. To recognise that we have a loving Father is very important, but can be conditioned and hampered by the relationship we have (had) with our earthly father. But even if it was nit an ideal relationship hopefully all have us have had the experience of being loved by someone. That wonderful sensation is just a glimpse of the love God has for us. Sometimes we wonder what a woman might ‘see’ in a man she loves, and vice-versa. They may seem to us to be ill-matched, but through the lens of love they see themselves as ‘made for each other.’ It remains a mystery. There are no really satisfactory human comparisons to God’s love for us. God’s Love has no reasons ‘why’ but it is worth reflecting on His generous Love for you and me.

A is for Adopted as sons and daughters of God the Father. This is a spiritual adoption. Adoption has legal implications, giving the adopted person the same legal rights of inheritance as biological children. Through baptism we are adopted by God as His children, and become brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ and of one another and are given the ‘right’ to the inheritance of heaven, something which is again God’s loving initiative. Every man is therefore my brother in Christ, and every woman I can call my sister. If only I would begin to treat them accordingly and as they deserve!

P is for People of God – on a pilgrimage through the wilderness of life. We are no longer individuals, isolated, rudderless, without meaning or identity. We truly ‘belong to each other’ and are called, in the words of Pope John Paul II, to build ‘a civilisation of love’. We have a collective identity. We are a people. We are a family, with relationships and responsibilities – just as we are all at once a son or daughter, grandson or grand-daughter, niece or nephew, cousin, so we have relations in the Christian family.

T is for Temples of the Holy Spirit, called and commanded to keep the temple of our bodies undefiled, by sin. True self-love respects the body of oneself, as well as therefore treating the bodies of others with dignity. We do great harm to ourselves by sin, and if we involve another in a sin, do great harm to them also. This should give us pause for thought, to meditate often on our true worth and value, as well as by implication, the worth of others for their bodily and spiritual integrity.

I is for Intercessors for one another – we ought to take seriously the invitation to pray for one another. We ought to believe that our prayers can and will be heard even if they are answered in ways and at times that we do not expect. I wonder if I have always taken this call to intercession seriously enough and if I have had the requisite faith to believe in it.

S is for Sanctified and called to be a saint, and able to receive the other Sacraments. Without Baptism, the other sacraments have no meaning and no value or effect on our souls. That is one reason that the Church has always taken great care to record the event of a baptism. The sacrament changes us interiorly and invisibly to make us holy and acceptable in God’s sight. We are to take seriously the baptismal call to holiness. The Bible says: ‘this is God’s will – your sanctification’ (1 Thess 14-16) Persevering prayer is the key to holiness. Sanctification is the work of a lifetime.

M is for Members of the Body of Christ, members of the Church and on a Mission. We have a collective purpose, calling and vocation by word, and by example to be lead, and to lead others closer to God. We cannot keep to ourselves the ‘secret’ of Christ, what He means to us, and what He does for us. We should desire this happiness for others. As Pope John Paul II said ‘those who have come into genuine contact with Christ cannot keep him for themselves, they must proclaim Him’. Membership of the Church should make us consider seriously becoming members of an apostolic or missionary organisation, concerned with spiritual and charitable works for our neighbour. We prove we are Christians by our love, especially for those whose need is greater than our own. To sum up, it means doing More!

So let us remember who and what we are as baptised Catholics:


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