This year – Liturgical Cycle B – on the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, we hear the Gospel account of St. Mark. In Mark’s account, the focus is on John the Baptist’s proclamation that One mightier than himself was to come after him, someone who would baptize with the Holy Spirit rather than water. When Jesus arrives, he’s baptized by John, and immediately thereafter the heavens open and the Holy Spirit descends upon our Lord and the voice of the Father is heard, “You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.” This is truly a remarkable event that could and should be pondered at considerable length.
For now, I’d like to look back on last year’s account of the Baptism of the Lord from the Gospel of St. Matthew because I believe it’s pertinent to current events in our country, Church, and world. Matthew tells the same story as Mark, but adds an important detail. Here it is in his words:
Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented.
John the Baptist is taken aback by Jesus’ request for baptism, and rightfully so. In Baptism, we’re moved by the Spirit to answer our Lord’s call to holiness and are asked to walk by his light and wisdom. “Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission: Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water in the word,” the Catechism tells us (see CCC, 1213) Jesus IS Light and Wisdom, he IS the Church and has no need to be freed from sin. How can he be born as a son of God when he already is the Son?
The simple answer is that he underwent Baptism to set an example for us. Since he was totally faithful to the will of his Father and free from sin, he purified the water rather than the water purifying him. Jesus’ Baptism was an act of solidarity with human beings so as to reconcile us to the Father. Later he instituted the Sacrament of Baptism by telling his disciples to baptize all nations so that people would die to sin and begin a new life as a Christian.
Baptism invites us to submit our hearts and wills to Christ, embarking on a journey of deepening love and faithfulness. This is why the Church asks us to renew our Baptismal vows during the Sacrament of Confirmation and at Easter. We’re asked to recommit ourselves to the solemn promises made at our Baptisms so that we can be strengthened in our resolve to reject Satan and follow Christ.
The incoming government administration is decidedly Pro-Choice and in favor of policies that suggest threats to the family, godly values, and freedom of worship. Tempers across the country have flared resulting in discord, destruction, and sinfulness. While anger in response to evil and injustice is acceptable, anger resulting in hatred is not. What better time than now to renew our Baptismal vows? We need to recommit ourselves to living in imitation of Christ, walking in his Light and Wisdom, and rejecting Satan and his evil ways at all costs. Renewing our Baptismal vows will strengthen our resolve, reaffirm who we are as members of Christ, and put everything into perspective. In a sense, it will help to reorder our hearts, minds, and souls.
Jesus led the way with his own Baptism, it’s time for us to lead the way for others by recommitting ourselves to ours.
Here is the formula for the renewal of Baptismal Vows. I invite you to pray it with me weekly (or daily if you wish) as we move ahead in this difficult time. Pray it alone, with your family, or in a prayer group. When you’re done, remember to bless yourself, your loved ones, and your home with holy water.
Renewal of Baptismal Vows
V. Do you reject Satan?
R. I do.
V. And all his works?
R. I do.
V. And all his empty promises?
R. I do.
V. Do you believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth?
R. I do.
V. Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was born of the Virgin Mary was crucified, died, and was buried, rose from the dead, and is now seated at the right hand of the Father?
R. I do.
V. Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting?
R. I do.
V. God, the all-powerful Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has given us a new birth by water and the Holy Spirit, and forgiven all our sins. May he also keep us faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ for ever and ever.
Image: Baptism of the Lord, St. Leo Catholic Church, Colombus, OH, CC