The decorations are all put away, the tree is bare and laying at the side of the road, the magic seems to have disappeared. Yet the mystery still remains and that is the magic of this incredible season. God becoming man for us is truly a mystery, one we can barely comprehend, but He did it for love of us.
Today we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord. Another mystery that God brings to us to show us how He truly loves us and how easy it is for us to return that love back to him. When talking to the kids about Jesus' baptism, they are quick to tell me that Jesus got baptized, not because He needed it, but to show us we needed it. It is the one thing we need to do to wash away Original Sin. They are so correct, but then what? After the stain of Original Sin is cleansed from us in Baptism, then what? What is our responsibility to God after that?
We learn from the Gospel that when Jesus was found preaching in the Temple at the tender age of 12, He returned with his parents back to Nazareth and grew in wisdom and grace. Imagine the Son of Man needing to grow in wisdom and grace! After his Baptism, Jesus went into the desert to fast and pray then returned to begin His public ministry of healing and teaching. I believe it was the combination of being filled with the Holy Spirit at His baptism and His discernment in the desert that Jesus realized in full what He was being called to do and His divine purpose as a human being, his fulfilling the promises made by God all those years ago to the Israelite people. Now for us we come to know this realization at our Confirmation.
When a child is baptized, he becomes as close to Christ as he will ever be. Think about this for a minute. It is not what you see, it is what you don't see that is significant. It is the invisible reality behind the visible sign that matters most to us as Christians and our salvation. The water we see washes away the stain of Original Sin that marks all of mankind handed down from our first parents fall from grace. We are marked with the Chrism oil as a sign we are now marked as belonging to God. We are His adopted children. The baptismal gown that is placed around us is white to signify we are pure, we have put on Christ. Our parents are given a lighted candle to show we are the light of the world, like Christ we are to be a light for others in our life. After all this we are now so much like Christ, God's own Son, we are truly children of God. How awesome is that? The significance of our baptism is almost too much for me to put into words. God did this for us, for our salvation. It is then at our Confirmation that we can reaffirm that act of faith and say yes to God, we understand what he has given us and we want a part of it.
It was very significant for Jesus to get baptized. He came to show us how to return the Father's love, but it is still left to us to freely give that love back to him. Once we realize we are more like Christ than we could possibly imagine, how could we ever turn our backs on God? It becomes easier to choose the path we want to take, easier to give thanks and easier to show love and forgiveness. But like Christ, we are marked as God's, we belong to God. We must be willing to live our lives for Him and there will be times it won't be so easy. Like Jesus there will be sacrifices and hardship and sometimes persecution for the sake of righteousness. Remember we are not of this world, we are meant for a heavenly purpose and it will be those trials that test us as willing to live as God's children. It is for this we pray. We pray for strength and guidance to live as Christ taught us and showed us. He came to redeem mankind for the purpose we were created. He came to lift us out of a quagmire that we can not climb out of alone. Man fell so far that man could not possibly be the redemption, it took God to send His Son to return us to our rightful place. What a gift He gave to us. Let us be thankful and celebrate Jesus' baptism with a commitment to live the call we received by our own baptism. We can continue this journey and we don't have to do it alone. God Bless and may we continue to love and serve the Lord and one another.