The Baptism of the Lord (C):
A song entitled “The Old Rugged Cross” has the following refrain:
So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross
Till my trophies at last I lay down
I will cling to the old rugged cross
And exchange it someday for a crown.
In the past few years we have seen several countries ordering their citizens to remove symbols of Christianity in schools and public places, among others, the cross, the crucifix, statues of Saints. Certainly this has created serious concern among Christians. Why? Because Christians know these are symbols of the manifestation of God’s presence among His people, the act of redemption that God brought to His people and God’s continuous mysterious presence in His Church. Besides, many great nations have been built and developed on Christian principles.
Baptism is not only a Sacrament that incorporates us into the Church. It also gives us the graces to live upright lives and to be attached to the life, suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus. This Sacrament marks us with the sign of the cross that even sin cannot erase. It is the seal for eternal life. And if we keep that sign on us, cherish and cling to that rugged cross of Jesus till the end by doing our responsibilities faithfully, by living our relationships honestly and by growing in virtues ardently, we will certainly exchange it for the crown of everlasting life.
Today, as we celebrate the Baptism of Jesus, we remember that His baptism was not for Himself. His baptism was for our salvation, for the waters to be made holy for our baptism and for us to repent of our sins and long for eternal life. This grace of salvation is not only for some but for all. In one of His sermons, St. Proclus of Constantinople said: Today every creature shouts in resounding song: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord…. the apostle Paul adds his own witness, saying: The grace of God has appeared bringing salvation for all men, and instructing us…. To Jews and Greeks alike God bestows salvation through baptism, offering baptism as a common grace for all (Wednesday after Epiphany).
Our Baptism and the Baptism of Jesus at the Jordan have already been prefigured by the great flood during the time of Noah. Again St. Proclus, referring to the great flood foreshadowing baptism, said: “Come, consider this new and wonderful deluge, greater and more important than the flood of Noah’s day. Then the water of the flood destroyed the human race, but now the water of baptism has recalled the dead to life by the power of the one who was baptized. In the days of the flood the dove with an olive branch in its beak foreshadowed the fragrance of the good odor of Christ the Lord; now the Holy Spirit, coming in the likeness of a dove reveals the Lord of mercy” (Wednesday after Epiphany, Office of Readings). Both times were times of hope, both places were places of hope for mankind, the visible signs were signs of hope, water was a sign of hope, the doves were signs of hope, the voice was a voice of hope. With Noah, his hope was with God and God alone. For the many believers during His earthly life, Jesus was their hope alive. For us Jesus is our hope and our way to eternal life.
Let us live our baptism daily so that we can worship God and be worthy of Him. Our catechism tells us: Baptism imprints on the soul an indelible spiritual sign, the character, which consecrates the baptized person for Christian worship (CCC 1280). So we worship Jesus today and renew our consecration to Him. After our baptism, the cleansing of the soul, we are also given by Jesus in His Church the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist to cleanse us again of our personal and social sins, no matter what kind they are, and be worthy of God’s graces and be one again with His Church.
As God’s children baptized in the Holy Spirit and with Mary our Mother, let us proclaim with Peter: In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him (Acts 10:34-35), and let us also exclaim, as we did in our responsorial psalm: The Lord will bless his people with peace (Ps 29:11).
Remain faithful in the Lord, and may you and your families enjoy the hope and peace which is our Lord Jesus Himself. And as we cling to that rugged cross and lay our trophies down, we may exchange them someday for a crown.