Christ Is on Our Side
(The Baptism of the Lord)
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Today, as we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord, we get a very important message about how much Christ loves us sinners.
But let me first remind you of the difference between the Baptism performed by Saint John and the Sacrament of Baptism founded by Christ our Lord and entrusted by Him to the Church.
The Baptism by Saint John was merely a rite of washing to help people expressing their repentance of the sins which they committed, in preparation for God’s mercy and forgiveness. Together with other rites, such as the wearing of sackcloth, the putting of ashes, the fasting of delicious food, the washing for repentance of sins were well practiced in the Old Testament times.
The Sacrament of Baptism, the rite of washing in water and in the Holy Spirit, is a sign of the saving power by Christ our Lord, which first cleanses us from our sins, both original—meaning to say, the sin committed by our first Parents, Adam and Eve—and personal, that is, the sins which we ourselves have committed—and which next gives us a new life, pure, holy, forever happy, forever enduring in friendly relationship with God the Father.
Christ declares the truth that “no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born by water and Spirit.”
Now let me tell you this essential teaching of today’s feast.
The Gospel story tells us that when Christ our Lord came to the Jordan River where Saint John the Baptist was baptizing people, He was solemnly introduced to the big crowd by the very words of John: “Here comes the person mightier than I. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of His sandals.”
Before Christ appeared on the stage of the social activities, Saint John had already gained powerful influences over the people. They thought that he should be the savior whom generations had been waiting for. But Saint John kept insisting the truth that he was not the Christ and, pointing at the new comer, he strongly told them, “It is He.”
Was that not a golden opportunity for Christ to steal the show from Saint John to rise brighter and enjoy greater glory? He would came forward, stood in front of the crowd, and addressed them as the true master giving instructions to devout disciples greeting Him with thundering shouts of joy and support.
What Christ our Lord did tells us the contrary. He instead stayed with the throng of people patiently waiting for their turn to be baptized by Saint John. He was tantamount not only to showing solidarity with us sinners, but also to taking responsibilities for our sins. He did this with determination in spite of Saint John’s repeatedly asking Him to do the opposite, “I need to be baptized by you.”
By so doing, Christ clearly teaches us the truth that He is on our side as one among us in all situations, rain or shine, to plead for our causes before God the Father, to comfort us in times of crisis and loss, to guide us out of confusion and falsehood, to suffer with us , and even to die for us.
The celebration of the Baptism of the Lord is sending us the message of the Divine Mercy of which Christ our Lord Jesus Christ is really the visible loving face.
Fr. Francis Nguyen, O.P.