JESUS WAS BAPTIZED BY JOHN
(A biblical refection on THE FEAST OF BAPTISM OF THE LORD, Sunday, 12 January 2014)
First Reading: Isaiah 42:1-4,6-7; Psalms: Ps 29:1-4,9-10; Second Reading: Acts 10:34-38; Gospel Reading: Matthew 3:13-17
Jesus was baptized as a 30 year-old adult. Later He would call His followers to be baptized as a commitment to Him. In the very early Church, baptism was for adults only. Before they received it there was an extended period of prayer, instruction and personal decision. It was both a time for sadness and gladness, for although the person was beginning a demanding way of life, at the same time they were receiving a pledge of sustaining grace and future reward.
When the candidates would first present themselves to the baptized community of believers, they would speak of their personal lives, their views of God, Church, prayer, etc. Then the church members would relate to the candidates their beliefs and teachings on these and similar subjects. Following this mutual discussion and prayer, the church membership would decide which aspirants should be accepted for instructions and which should be rejected or postponed. Those accepted would then begin their entrance programs which culminated with their reception into the Church on the vigil of Easter. That evening still remains the most opportune time to receive adul converts into full communion.
The baptism of children did not become commonplace until about the 5th century. In each case the parent were to speak in behalf of their children, and had to promise to raise their youngsters in the faith, before they could be baptized. This also is still the practice today, and the modern Church is reemphasizing its importance.
The deep significance of baptism is that it is the entrance into a new life of faith, intended to grow and blossom into eternity. As a ceremonial pouring of water, baptism is received only once. But it is also a day by day consignment of one’s life to the risen Lord. The funeral liturgy is a solemn reminder of our baptismal dignity. When the white pall shrouds the casket, it is a symbolic reminder of the small white robe that veiled this person as a baby many years before. “On the day of her (his) baptism”, the priest says, “she (he) put on Christ; in the day of Christ’s coming may she (he) be clothed with glory”.
The baptism of Jesus, like our own, is viewed as a public pledge to do more than the minimum and to accept the responsibility to be our brother’s keeper. A baptized person becomes a contradiction if she or he grows selfish with possessions and narrow-minded in outlook. When we see the many social sins around us, we should feel some responsibility to make improvements- and in some cases a sense of guilt for having contributed to them.
At our baptisms we don’t see any doves or openings in the sky, but we do believe that the sacrament makes us a better person and that God’s favor rests upon us.
Note: Taken from Rev. James Mckarns, GO TELL EVERYONE, Makati, Philippines: ST. PAUL PUBLICATIONS, 1985, pages 15-16.
Jakarta, 12 January 2014
A Christian Pilgrim