Through Baptism to New Life

Detail from Baptism of Christ by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo c1655

This Sunday sees the celebration of the Baptism of Our Lord when the Gospel reading is the account of Christ’s baptism in the River Jordan at the start of His public ministry.  Now we see Jesus as an adult, stepping out into the world, stepping into and sanctifying the waters of baptism.  We might contemplate that, had Jesus not embarked on this course of action that would eventually take Him to the cross, there would be no forgiveness, no salvation for us.  We would still be stuck with our sins.  Through the sanctifying grace of the sacrament of baptism, the light of Christ does not just shine on our exteriors but transforms us interiorly.   We are released from Original Sin, become children of God and begin our life’s journey, learning to reject Godless ways and worldly desires.

We might readily deceive ourselves into thinking that ‘Godless ways’ refers only to the ways of life of criminals or those who seek power and wealth for themselves by way of corruption at the expense of others.  Our own (hopefully simpler!) “Godless ways” might even be well-meaning, but because of the disorder that any ill-thought-out actions can create, they may end up wreaking havoc and upset in our communities.

So is there something in the sacrament to help us with this?  Yes, there is.  We reflect that when we are baptised, it is in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We are joined to Jesus in our baptism. The heavenly Father becomes our Father, calling us his beloved children and the Holy Spirit is given to us.  We might further reflect that by being joined to Jesus, we are joined to everything he has done for us.  It was our sins he carried on his shoulders, taking them to the cross, to suffer and die in our place and opening the doors of Heaven to us.

And so there is the opportunity for Life.  Resurrection life……for eternity!  In Romans 6 we read “You have been taught that when we were baptised in Christ Jesus we were baptised in His death: in other words, when we were baptised we went into the tomb with Him and joined Him in death, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the Father’s glory, we too might live a new life. For if in union with Christ we have imitated His death, we shall surely also imitate Him in His resurrection.”

So there’s more packed into the Sacrament of Holy Baptism than we might think – the triune God, being back in relationship with God as His family; forgiveness of sin; the promise of new, everlasting life through the resurrection of the body.  A whole new creation!

In view of all these gifts at our baptism, we might finally reflect that in today’s Gospel, Luke gives us one key detail that the other evangelists omit. After coming up out of the water, Jesus is praying. The opening up of heaven; the descent of the Holy Spirit; the Father’s voice from heaven manifesting Jesus as His son, the Messiah – all follow upon Jesus’ prayer.  This is not the sort of prayer by which we ask God to fulfil our desires; this is prayer that is rooted in adoration, by which we place ourselves at God’s disposal, saying simply “Here I am, Lord.”

Painting: Detail from Baptism of Christ by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo c1655