Reading I (Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7) Reading II (Acts 10:34-38)
Gospel (St. Mark 1:7-11)
As we celebrate today the feast of Our Lord’s Baptism, it is a point that asks us the question: What does Baptism mean for us? If Jesus was baptized, first of all the question is: Why? Obviously, He had no sin that needed to be removed, so why would He be baptized? The saints tell us that the reason He was baptized was in order to make the waters of Baptism holy. It was not that He had to be baptized because of any sin of His own, but rather the point with regard to sin has to do with ours. Being that all of us who are baptized enter into the Mystical Body of Christ, it would be fitting then that Christ Himself would be baptized in order that all of the sins of the members of the Mystical Body would be removed by Baptism.
It also is fitting that He would be baptized because Our Lord will ask us to do nothing unless He was willing to do it first. We see that throughout His entire life. He took on all the suffering that we might have to endure – He walked to the Cross, He was crucified. There is nothing that He refused to do. So if He asks us to do something, we see that He was willing to do it first. He is not sitting back saying to us, “I want you to suffer, but I don’t want to do it myself. I want you to be baptized, but I won’t be.” He, as the leader, walks in front of us; He walks ahead so that we can follow; and He lays out for us exactly what will be required of each of us.
Now He also speaks in the Gospels about another baptism, and that baptism is His death, His suffering and His death. And so Saint Paul tells us that when we are baptized, we are baptized into the death and resurrection of Christ so that we share in the fullness of the very person of Jesus Christ. Consequently, when we are baptized, we become children of God, members of the one Son of God – with Whom God is well pleased – at that time.
Of course, what we do with our lives is not always so pleasing to God, but the reality of the matter is that we are all members of Jesus Christ. We are all baptized. Consequently, as children of God, even if we have not done what we should, we can still get things turned around. We can still live now the way we are supposed to. The grace is there and the ability is there, not of our own accord, but by His strength. If we are members of Jesus Christ then we have the strength of Christ to be able to do what needs to be done. We can live virtuous and holy lives in this world. So if we look back and think, “I’ve squandered my baptismal inheritance,” that is not entirely true because, thankfully, the baptismal inheritance that is ours is infinite. Perhaps we have done with that inheritance some things we should not, but the inheritance ultimately is God. If we will turn our hearts to God and allow ourselves to be filled with Him then we have exactly what He wants for us. He wants us to be united with Himself, and He wants us to live what we have promised in Baptism.
Saint Peter, in the second reading, tells us that Jesus went about doing good and healing all those who were oppressed by the devil. Well, what is Baptism? It is removing us from the power of Satan and putting us into Jesus Christ. What we need, then, to do in our day-to-day lives is reject all of the things of the devil, all the temptations, the sins, the whole thing. We need to reject it all so we can live according to the way of Christ. If Jesus came to heal those oppressed by the devil, all we need to do is look in the mirror and realize that we are among those because all of us have fallen so many times that the devil has a hold. But that hold can be broken, and it is broken by Christ. If we will turn to Him and we will enter into ourselves so that He can heal those wounds in our hearts, then we can be free of the oppression of Satan and we can have the true freedom of the children of God. The Holy Spirit Who came upon us at the moment of Baptism, and in fullness at Confirmation, is present within if we are in the state of grace. Satan has no power over the Lord, so we have everything we need if we are willing to do it. It is frightening, it can be very painful, but if we are willing to look at those ugly things inside, we can break the bondage of Satan and we can live in the fullness of the freedom that was given to us at Baptism. We can live as children of God with whom He is well pleased.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.