This past Monday evening, the junior high school students in our faith formation program were asked the first question about baptism. Nothing at all theoretical, but very, very practical and particular to each one of them: “on what day were you baptized?” We didn’t ask what powers flow from baptism, what anointing take place at baptism, why Christ was baptized since He is God…no, none of these questions, simply if they knew the day on which the rest of their lives would be changed forever. [Okay, if you must know, I was baptized on August 11th—the Feast of St. Clare—at Transfiguration Parish in San Jose, California.]
Let’s be honest, few, if any of us, recall the particular date because, quite frankly, the date isn’t important. What IS important is WHAT happened to us at baptism and WHY, isn’t it? And that answer begins with today’s scriptures.
We hear the prophecy of Isaiah in today’s first reading that Justice will be borne by One who Himself is the Lord’s servant, God’s chosen one, with whom He is well pleased. This One, once revealed, will take all others burdens and lay them upon His own shoulders, thus restoring what was lost or stolen. This prophecy, this prefigurement needs only to be fulfilled. And from our second reading, Peter details such a restored justice in the times of the early Christian community, does he not? He says, “God shows no partiality…everyone, everyone who is ‘just’, is acceptable in the sight of God.” So, what is the pivotal moment where all this takes place…who is the pivotal character who has it come to pass?
After Jesus’ own baptism—not during…remember that the baptism of John was merely a sign of repentance using water—so, after Jesus’ baptism He is at prayer. [When Jesus prays in the Scriptures, it’s often a signal to us that something significant is about to come.] And it happened that heaven opened and the Holy Spirit anointed Him. The pivotal moment has begun: Jesus Christ submits Himself to the will of the Father; He is anointed by the Holy Spirit and empowered for His ministry as the Father’s Beloved Son…with whom, He is well pleased. The water did nothing to Him, but the anointing from the Holy Spirit empowers Him now to preach to the nations…and He does!
By Jesus’ humble act: approaching for John’s baptism when He did not need it as Savior; in His strong desire to be in complete communion with all of humanity—every one of us who approach the waters for re-birth; in His deepest longing for justice to be restored among all of us, Jesus’ desires of His heart are what prompt the Father of Heaven to declare, “You are my Beloved Son; with You I am well pleased.”
My brothers and sisters—for that is what we are in baptism—my brothers and sisters, at your own baptism, the same was pronounced. In Jesus’ ministry to establish justice for the earth; in the Spirit’s anointing of us at the waters of baptism—waters blessed by the Son who called us into union with Him by adoption; in God the Father’s passionate longing for us to again be fully alive with Him, clearly, we are God’s beloved sons and daughters. Our work now is to live up to our calling: living by the will of the Father, and being continually blessed by His pleasure.
Don’t worry about when you were baptized; but never forget how and why you were baptized. We were called into a new and saving life by the One who humbled Himself to take up our cause…One who re-establishes justice for all who suffer and invites us to work in union with Him…One whose only and divine motive is that we will inherit the Kingdom prepared for the faithful from the beginning: life eternal which began at our baptism and is continuing even today and every day.