Marge Fenelon is an award-winning Catholic author and journalist, blogger, and speaker. She’s a long-time correspondent for National Catholic Register, and the author of several books on Marian devotion and Catholic family life. She’s also a weekly contributor to Relevant Radio’s “Morning Air Show” and a popular guest on several other Catholic radio and television shows. Marge is an instructor for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee Deacon Wives Program.
I love the narrative of our Lord’s baptism. From John’s reaction to Jesus’ approach to the decent of the Dove and the Father’s proclamation, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased,” it makes me want to jump for joy.
There is a lot I could write about this scene, especially as it brings back memories of my amazing trip to Jordan in April 2015. But there are five things in particular that really touch my heart.
1. The re-uniting of John the Baptist and Jesus. Although there may have been some meetings of John and Jesus previously, there are no specific scenes mentioned in Scripture in which they met personally after the Visitation. Even then it was a meeting more of spirit – “the infant leaped in her womb” wrote Luke – than of body. Yet, the two recognized each other.
I can imagine that same kind of “leap” occurring in John’s heart as he saw his cousin and Lord making his way toward the river bank. And I can imagine the same kind of joy welling in Jesus’ heart as well. It was not only a moment of ministry, but also a family reunion.
2. Our Lord’s humility. Jesus was and is the King of Kings, God-Man, and the Almighty himself. He had absolutely no need to be baptized. He IS salvation and has no need of it himself. On the Cross, the blood and water that flowed from him side are “types of Baptism and the Eucharist, the sacraments of new life,” as the Catechism says (CCC 1225)
Still Jesus insisted that John baptize him (in spite of the Baptist’s resistance). Jesus told him, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” (see Mt 3:14)
What an example for all of us!
Thinking about Jesus not only allowing, but insisting that, John baptize him makes me cringe in shame at all the times I’ve wanted more accolade than I actually deserved.
3. Reassurance. Jesus’ Baptism – in fact, Baptism in general – reassures me of God’s promise of salvation for those who seek him.
Lord knows, literally, that I certainly do seek him.
The Church calls Baptism the “washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit.”
That indeed is something marvelous to ponder!
Here’s the whole paragraph from the Catechism:
This sacrament is also called "the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit," for it signifies and actually brings about the birth of water and the Spirit without which no one "can enter the kingdom of God." (CCC 1215)
The idea of being washed in the waters of Baptism and renewed by the Spirit absolutely thrills me.
4. Indelible seal. Nothing, no one, no how, can take away my Baptism. Once conferred, Baptism can never be undone.
Incorporated into Christ by Baptism, the person baptized is configured to Christ. Baptism seals the Christian with the indelible spiritual mark (character) of his belonging to Christ. No sin can erase this mark, even if sin prevents Baptism from bearing the fruits of salvation. Given once for all, Baptism cannot be repeated. (CCC 1272)
Once baptized, I belong to Christ. Forever.
5. Mission. Along with Baptism, I was given a mission, and I’m not the only one. All of the Baptized have been given the mission to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth and to baptize all peoples.
That’s not a mission some Church council randomly made up – as I’ve heard some folks accuse – but rather it’s one that came from Jesus himself. Bringing others into the Church is not an option; it’s an obligation.
Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
When Jesus commissioned the eleven, he also commissioned all the Baptized. That includes me, and you, if you’ve been baptized.
That mission, that purpose for my entire life given by Christ himself, elates me.
Oh, for sure this can at times be an arduous – and even dangerous – mission. Nonetheless, all baptized persons have been called to it. Remember that indelible seal I mentioned in Number 4? It includes my Baptism plus the mission that goes along with it.
I’ve been configured, sealed, and appointed for Jesus Christ.
That makes my heart jump for joy.
This article originally appeared Jan. 10, 2016, at the Register.