CLAIMING OUR INHERITANCE
AS ‘ADOPTED SONS & DAUGHTERS’
I read this story of two pastors and one priest talking about the problem of cats invading their churches. The Baptist minister said he put the cats in bags and threw them in a nearby river. In spite of that, the cats survived and there were twice as many there the next week.
The Methodist minister said they were not in a position to harm any of God’s creation. So he confided they humanely trapped the cats and set them free many miles outside town. But three days later, the cats were back.
But the Catholic priest bragged that he had the best and most effective solution. He said, “I simply baptized them and I haven’t seen them in church since then!”
This is just a joke but it tells of a sad reality that after baptism many of us Christians are never seen in church again.
Just like this story of a priest who was celebrating midnight Mass before a packed congregation which included numerous new faces, said, “Merry Christmas and Happy Easter!”
The people wondered why he included Easter. After the Mass, the priest explained, “It’s because the next time they will show up in church again will be on Easter.”
This Sunday is the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. It is a great feast in the sense that Jesus showed his love, and solidarity with us.
In the First Reading, Isaiah’s central message is an announcement of salvation for the people of God. He reveals God as a Shepherd-King, attracting and ever caring for his people.
In the Second Reading, St. Paul proclaims that the “grace of God has appeared” in Christ. This has set us on the road to salvation by giving us the gifts of God, specially baptism, and by calling us to lead lives dedicated to Christ.
Today’s Gospel tells the story of the crossing from one threshold to another. Many moved by John’s fierce preaching at the Jordan mistakenly believe that he is the Messiah. John tells them that he is only preparing the way. He performs an ancient ritual symbolizing conversion and repentance. The Baptist refers to the one who is to come, ‘who will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire!’ If the one who is to come will baptize with the Holy Spirit, then he must be possessed by the Holy Spirit. At Jesus’ baptism two events take place. One is seen, the other is heard. The descent of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus is seen in the descent of a dove. Then the voice from heaven announces: “You are my son, the Beloved”. After his baptism in the Jordan, Jesus in prayer, receives the anointing of the Holy Spirit to consecrate him to announce to the poor the good news of their salvation. The arrival of Jesus is not the end of the story. One part of God’s history has come to a close, but another is about to begin. The wonder of God’s coming among us has been celebrated over the Christmas period. Now we are called to live lives that reflect our belief that he is truly among us. As we begin our year, we are challenged to recall our own baptism, we too, are the well-beloved sons and daughters of the Father, filled with the Holy Spirit, and commissioned to bring God’s favour and fire into our world. Are we ready to live this year proud to be Jesus’ people?
What is Baptism?
1. The Sacrament of Baptism is the most beautiful event that can happen in one’s life. Did you know that when someone is baptised, it means that God the Father, the Son, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, give the Christian many very special gifts? To be baptized in the Catholic Church means more then being sprinkled with water on one’s head and receiving a Christian name. This short Bible course will teach you the true wonders of the Sacrament of Baptism.
2. The word ‘Baptism’ comes from a Greek word that means to ‘plunge’ or ‘immerse’. To ‘plunge’ someone in water represents the person dying, being buried and resurrecting with Christ as a ‘new creature.’ (C.C.C. # 1214) Some call this Sacrament ‘the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit’ because Baptism results in a new birth of water and the Spirit. Without it, no one can enter the Kingdom of God. [Jn. 3:5] (C.C.C. # 1215)
[Note: All "C.C.C." references relate to the "Catechism of the Catholic Church."]
3. This ‘bath’ is called ‘enlightenment’. That is because those who are preparing to receive this Church Sacrament will receive spiritual teachings from the Holy Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Enlightened by Jesus Who is the Light of the World [Jn. 1:9], the new Christians now have the potential of becoming ‘children of light’. [1 Thess. 5:5; Heb. 10:32; Eph. 5:8] (C.C.C. # 1216, 1228)
For Fr. Munachi the meaning of baptism can be found in the four letters of the word RICE. RICE is very important for us Asians because this is our staple food. Without it, we will die.
R stands for Rebirth. In baptism we are born again by water and the Holy Spirit. We are cleansed from original sin and become sons and daughters of God in a special way.
I stands for Initiation. At baptism, we are initiated or admitted into full membership in the church, the community of the children of God in the world.
C is for Consecration. In baptism we consecrate, dedicate and commit ourselves to seek and to spread the Kingdom of God. We commit ourselves to be servants of God, to do God’s will and serve God with our whole lives.
E is for Empowerment. At baptism the Holy Spirit comes into our lives and empowers us, equips us, gives us the moral strength to say “no” to evil and to live as God’s children that we have become.
Our Lord’s baptism is a vital moment in our story of salvation, where he joined with humanity in the humble outreach to God, and where the Father and the Spirit are seen and heard to be there with him. The Gospel says that “the heavens were opened,” a powerful statement of the point of contact between heaven and earth. Later on, as Jesus completes his life-journey on Calvary, we read how “the veil of the Temple was rent in two,” a symbol that we are not completely free to enter the Holy of Holies.
Today’s Gospel begins a journey which, by our own baptismal vocation, each of us is asked to travel. It is a journey full of purpose, a journey of intent. Each of us needs a sense of purpose and pattern to our living. When I set out on a journey I need to have a clear idea of where I want to go, and what road to follow. Peter summarised the purpose and pattern of Christ’s life when he said, “He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.” We are each invited, personally, to make this purpose our own.
A man was down the country travelling along by-roads where the signposts were few and far between. After a while, unsure of his directions, he decided to ask the first person he saw. When he came across a farmer driving his cows home for milking he stopped the car and asked if he was on the right road to Mallow. The farmer told him that he certainly was on the Mallow road. The driver thanked him and was about to move forward when the farmer added, in a nonchalant way, “You’re on the right road, but you’re going in the wrong direction!’
Let’s look into our own lifestyle today, to see if our direction is right.
Being a Christian requires a lifetime commitment to serve God faithfully. Baptism places us in a covenant relationship as Disciples of Jesus. What responsibilities and duties do we accept when we receive forgiveness of sins? Baptism is not the end of our service to God, but is the beginning of a lifetime commitment of total dedication to him.
Here is a brief list of a few of the responsibilities Christians should fulfill. One who is considering baptism needs to be aware of what God will expect of him after he becomes a Christian:
I. Study the Bible Regularly
Diligent Bible study is our only way of learning God’s will and avoiding error.
Acts 17:11; Psa. 1:2; 2 Tim. 2:15; 3:16,17.
Are you willing to study the Bible diligently?
II. Pray Frequently
Prayer is our means of thanking God, praising Him, and making known our needs.
Phil. 4:6; 1 Pet. 5:7; Matt. 6:9-13; 1 Thess. 5:17.
Are you willing to pray regularly?
III. Commit Yourself to the Local Catholic Church
New Testament Christians always were recognized as part of a local church. They committed themselves to be involved and actively participate in the work of that church. See Acts 9:26-28; 11:26; Heb. 13:17; 1 Cor. 1:2; Eph. 4:16 (cf. next point).
This church must be scriptural in worship, name, organization, salvation, etc.
IV. Attend the Services of the Local Catholic Church
We should come whenever the church meets to study, sing, & pray — Heb. 3:12,13; 10:24,25; John 4:24; Eph. 4:16; 1 Thess. 5:11; Acts 11:26; 2:42; 1 Cor. 14.
Are you willing to regularly attend whenever the church meets?
V. Practice Proper Relations with Other People
* In our family — Eph. 5:22-6:4; Col. 3:18-21; Tit. 2:4,5.
* To those who are in need — Luke 10:25-37; Acts 20:35; Jas. 1:27; Matt. 25:34-40.
* To the civil government — Rom. 13:1-5; 1 Pet. 2:13,14; Matt. 22:17-21.
* In business — Eph. 6:5-9; Tit. 2:9,10; Col. 3:22-4:1; Psa. 37:21.
Are you willing to learn & follow Bible teaching about how to treat others?
VI. Help Others Learn the Gospel
All Christians should work to learn how to lead others to Jesus
Acts 8:4; Prov. 11:30; 2 Tim. 2:2,24-26; John 4:28-30,39; 1:40-46; Heb. 5:12.
Are you willing to share the message of Jesus with others?
VII. Live an Upright Moral Life
Mark 7:20-23; Rom. 1:26-32; 1 Cor. 6:9-11; Gal. 5:19-21; etc.
Are you willing to correct any sins in your life as you learn of them?
VIII. Honor Church Discipline
We hope no members would practice sin.
1 Cor. 5; Matt. 18:15-17; 2 Thess. 3:6,14,15; Rom. 16:17,18; Tit. 3:10,11.
Are you willing to honor church teachings?
VIII. Do God’s Will in All Things
Luke 14:26-33; Matt. 28:18-20; 16:24-27; 6:19-33; Rom. 12:1,2; 6:1-18.
Are you willing to forsake all your desires and give your whole life to Jesus?
What should a person do if he sins after baptism? — Acts 8:22; 1 John 1:9.
Are you willing to repent of any sins you commit after baptism through confession to a Priest?
Fr. Gaspar Fernandes, OFM Cap.