It all begins with Baptism

From the Encyclical Letter of Ven. Pius XII: Mystici Corporis (on the Mystical Body of Christ and our union with It with Christ)

He wished to make known and proclaim His Spouse through the visible coming of the Holy Spirit with the sound of a mighty wind and tongues of fire. For just as He Himself when He began to preach was made known by His Eternal Father through the Holy Spirit descending and remaining on Him in the form of a dove, so likewise, as the Apostles were about to enter upon their ministry of preaching, Christ our Lord sent the Holy Spirit down from Heaven, to touch them with tongues of fire and to point out, as by the finger of God, the supernatural mission and office of the Church.

The Rosary: The First Luminous Mystery

THE BAPTISM OF THE LORD

  • John is baptizing in the Jordan proclaiming a baptism of repentance.
  • “I am the voice of one crying in the desert, make straight the way of the Lord.”
  • “One mightier than I is coming after me.”
  • “I have baptized you with water, He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
  • Seeing Jesus, John exclaims: “Behold the Lamb of God.”
  • After Jesus’ baptism a voice from Heaven: “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”
  • The Spirit descends upon Jesus in the form of a dove.
  • In this heavenly manifestation is instituted the sacrament of baptism.
  • The divine Trinity is manifested: the voice of the Father is heard as the Spirit descends upon the Son.
  • Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert for 40 days.

Spiritual Fruit: Gratitude for the gift of Faith

The Voice is John, the Word is Christ

John is the voice, but the Lord is the Word who was in the beginning. John is the voice that lasts for a time; from the beginning Christ is the Word who lives for ever. Take away the word, the meaning, and what is the voice? Where there is no understanding, there is only a meaningless sound. The voice without the word strikes the ear but does not build up the heart.

However, let us observe what happens when we first seek to build up our hearts. When I think about what I am going to say, the word or message is already in my heart. When I want to speak to you, I look for a way to share with your heart what is already in mine. In my search for a way to let this message reach you, so that the word already in my heart may find a place also in yours, I use my voice to speak to you. The sound of my voice brings the meaning of the word to you and then passes away. The word which the sound has brought to you is now in your heart, and yet it is still also in mine.  When the word has been conveyed to you, does not the sound seem to say: The word ought to grow, and I should diminish? The sound of the voice has made itself heard in the service of the word, and has gone away, as though it were saying: My joy is complete. Let us hold on to the word; we must not lose the word conceived inwardly in our hearts.
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Do you need proof that the voice passes away but the divine Word remains? Where is John’s baptism today? It served its purpose, and it went away. Now it is Christ’s baptism that we celebrate. It is in Christ that we all believe; we hope for salvation in him. This is the message the voice cried out. Because it is hard to distinguish word from voice, even John himself was thought to be the Christ. The voice was thought to be the word. But the voice acknowledged what is was, anxious not to give offense to the word. I am not the Christ, he said, nor Elijah, nor the prophet. And the question came: Who are you, then? He replied: I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way for the Lord.
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The voice of one crying in the wilderness is the voice of one breaking the silence. Prepare the way for the Lord, he says, as though he were saying: “I speak out in order to lead him into your hearts, but he does not choose to come where I lead him unless you prepare the way for him.” To prepare the way means to pray well; it means thinking humbly of oneself. We should take our lesson from John the Baptist. He is thought to be the Christ; he declares he is not what they think. He does not take advantage of their mistake to further his own glory.
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If he had said, “I am the Christ,” you can imagine how readily he would have been believed, since they believed he was the Christ even before he spoke. But he did not say it; he acknowledged what he was. He pointed out clearly who he was; he humbled himself. He saw where his salvation lay. He understood that he was a lamp, and his fear was that it might be blown out by the wind of pride.

+St.Augustine

And when Jesus was baptized, he went up immediate­ly from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting on him; and a voice from heaven saying: This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. (Mt.3:16-17)

In today’s feast we celebrate the baptism of Jesus by John in the waters of the Jordan. Though he himself had no stain to be washed away, he wished to submit himself to this rite as he submitted himself to the other requirements of the Law. As a human being he submitted himself to the laws that ruled and governed the lives of the people of Israel who had been elected by God to prepare the way for the Redeemer. John the Baptist carried out energetically his mission to prophesy and arouse a great movement towards repentance as an immediate preparation for the coming of the Messianic Kingdom.

By his baptism Jesus left for us the Sacrament of Christian Baptism, directly instituted by Christ with what would be a further progressive determination of its elements, and be imposed as a universal law from the day of his Ascension. All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me, the Lord was to say on that day. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

In Baptism we receive faith and grace. The day we ,were baptized was the most important day of our lives. Just as the parched land does not yield its fruits if it does not get water, so also we who were like dried sticks can produce fruits of life only if we receive freely the gentle and abundant rainfall of grace from on high. Before we received baptism we were outside the locked gates of Paradise, unable to bring forth the slightest supernatural fruit.

Today our prayer enables us to thank God for this totally undeserved gift, and to rejoice in the countless good things He has so lavishly bestowed on us. Thanks giving is the very first emotion that should be born in us in response to our baptism: the second is joy. Never should we think of our baptism without deep feelings of interior gladness.

We must rejoice in the cleansing of our souls from the stain of original sin, and of any other sin we may have committed before our baptism. All men are members of the same human family which was originally damaged by the sin of our first parents. This original sin is transmitted as an inextricable part of our fallen human nature, by generation, not by imitation, and is to be found individually in each one of us. But Jesus gave us Baptism as a specific means of purifying our human nature and freeing it from the terrible affliction of this sin we were born with. The baptismal water operates in a real way, signifying what the use of natural water signifies – the cleansing and purification from every blemish or stain.

Thanks to the Sacrament of Baptism you have been turned into a temple of the Holy Spirit, says St Leo the Great. Don’t ever let it happen, he exhorts us, that you drive away so noble a guest by your evil deeds, or ever again submit to the power of the demon: for the price you were bought with is the blood of Christ.

The effects of baptism: cleansing from original sin, new life, divine filiation etc., and entry into the Body of the Church.

Almighty, eternal God, when the Spirit descended upon Jesus at his baptism in the Jordan, you revealed him as your own beloved Son. Keep us, your children born of water and the Holy Spirit, faithful to our calling.

Baptism initiates us into the Christian life. It is a true birth into supernatural life. It is the new life preached by the Apostles and spoken of by Jesus to Nicodemus: Truly I say to you that he who is not born again from on high cannot enter into the Kingdom of Heaven: what is born of the flesh is flesh but what is born of the Spirit is spirit.

The result of this new life is a true divinization of man that gives him the power to bring forth supernatural fruit. Often the dignity of the baptized person is veiled, unfortunately, by the ordinary circumstances of his life so, like the saints, we must strive hard to live in accordance with that dignity at all costs.

Our highest dignity that of being children of God is conferred on us by baptism, is the consequence of our re-birth. If human birth gives as its result ‘fatherhood’ and ‘sonship’, in a similar way those engendered by God are really his children. See what Love of God the Father has for us that He has called us children of God! We really are! Beloved, now we are children of God and it is not yet shown what we shall be.

The miracle of a new birth is achieved at the moment of Baptism by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The baptismal water is blessed on Easter night and in the prayers we ask: just as the Spirit came upon Mary and produced in her the birth of Christ, so may it descend on the Church and produce in her maternal womb (the baptismal rite) the rebirth of the children of God.

The profound reality corresponding to this graphic expression is that the newly baptised person is born again to a new life, the life of God and thus is His ‘son’: And so we are sons, and heirs too, heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ. Let us give thanks to our Father God for bestowing such gifts, gifts beyond all measure, upon us, upon each one of us. What great joy it is to think often about those realities!

In the Church nobody is an isolated Christian. From the time of baptism each person is a part of a people, and the Church presents itself to the world as the true family of the children of God. It was the will of God to sanctify and save mankind, not in isolation, separated from one another or without forming a people that would acknow­ledge it in truth and serve it in holiness. And Baptism is the door through which we enter the Church.

And in the Church, precisely through Baptism, we are all called to holiness, each one in his own state of life and condition, and to the exercise of the apostolate. The call to holiness and the consequent need for personal sanctification, is universal. Everyone – priests and laity – is called to holiness; and we have all received in Baptism the first fruits of a spiritual life which by its very nature will tend to maturity.

Another truth intimately connected to the condition of being a member of the Church is the sacramental character a sure and indelible spiritual sign imprinted on the soul. It is like Christ’s seal of possession on the soul of the baptized. Christ took possession of our souls at the moment we were baptized. He rescued us from sin by His Passion and Death. With these thoughts in mind we appreciate the Church’s desire that children should receive early these gifts of God. It has always urged parents to have their children baptized as soon as possible. It is a practical demonstration of faith. Neglect to do so is not caring for their freedom, just as if one were to cause them hurt in their natural life, to neglect to feed, clothe, clean or care for them when they were unable to ask for those things for themselves. On the contrary, they have a right to receive this grace. What a wonderful apostolate there is for us to exercise in many cases – among friends, companions, acquaintances…

Baptism brings into action something greater than any other good: grace and faith; perhaps, eternal salvation. It can only be by ignorance and a distorted faith that many children are deprived, even by their own Christian parents, of the greatest gift of their lives. Our prayer goes up to God this day asking that He may never allow this to happen. We have to thank our parents who brought us, perhaps just a few days after we were born, to receive this holy sacrament.

Fr. Francis Fernandez (In Conversation with God)

Author Sr. JosephMary f.t.i.

Our Lady found this unworthy lukewarm person and obtained for her the grace to enter the Third Order of the Franciscans of the Immaculate. May this person spend all eternity in showing her gratitude.

More posts by Sr. JosephMary f.t.i.

Join the discussion One Comment

  • Kersten Verhulst says:

    What will happen to those who die and have not been baptized. Like children who are in Christian homes and are dedicated as infants and choose baptisim later in life. Or those who were never taught about Christ and died ignorant.

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