The Baptism of the Lord

By Fr. Roy Cimagala

IT’S one of the intriguing episodes in the gospel. Why did Christ ask to be baptized by John the Baptist? In fact, John was hesitant to do so. “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” he said. (Mt 3,13) But Christ insisted. “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness,” Christ told John. And so, Christ was baptized.

This “to fulfill all righteousness” must mean that Christ wanted to establish the sacrament of baptism through which all of us can become members of his mystical body, the Church, and sharers of the merits Christ earned for us through his redemptive mission. With this sacrament we are given the chance to earn the “all righteousness” that is meant for us.

This episode of Christ’s baptism also highlights the interesting fact that Christ was clearly confirmed as the Son of the Father. That’s when suddenly a voice was heard while Christ was still immersed in water, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

We should therefore have no doubt as to the importance and indispensability of the sacrament of baptism and as to the identity of Christ in whom we should give total belief and love.

Our belief in Jesus as the Christ, as the First Letter of St. John says, proves that one is born of God. This is how one becomes a child of God. More than that—by believing in Jesus as the Christ, one shows his love for God by keeping God’s commandments. (cfr. 5,1-3)

Again, the question may be asked: why do we still need to be baptized if in the first place, man has already been created in God’s image and likeness? The answer, of course, is that the original image and likeness man had at the beginning was deformed because of the sin of our first parents that led all of us to be born with original sin. We need to recover our dignity as children of God.

This was done when God became man in Christ who offers us “the way, the truth and the life” that is proper to us. We need to be conformed to this God-made-man. And this conformity of ours to Christ starts to take place in our baptism.

This time, our continuing creation and testing would need that we be conformed to sacrament of baptism which was instituted by Christ himself through his own baptism in the River Jordan.

With baptism, we have Christ as the pattern of our salvation, embedded, so to speak, in our life. That is why we need to be baptized. It is to recover our original dignity as true children of God, his image and likeness, meant to participate in the very life and nature of God.

With Christ, we can receive the supernatural grace that would enable us to attain our ideal state. It would not be enough for us to know God with our intelligence and to love him with our will, without God’s grace through Christ.

We need to clarify and emphasize the importance and necessity of baptism since there is now a trend to downplay this sacrament in our life. But even before that problem came to be, the usual issue is that many people do not realize the implications of the sacrament—that we need to duly correspond to the abiding redemptive action of Christ all throughout our life.

We have to be aware that once baptized we commit ourselves to vitally identify ourselves with Christ, which is going to be a lifelong process!