The Baptism of Our Lord

Flannery O’Connor was an American writer who lived in the early 20th century. She was a catholic and being born in Georgia she lived in the Bible Belt in the Southern states of USA. She wrote a moving story called “The River.” One scene in the story is very similar to today’s gospel reading. There’s a little boy named Bevel. His parents are so involved in social affairs that they often leave Bevel with an elderly baby-sitter. One day the baby-sitter takes Bevel to the river, where a famous preacher is baptizing people. The baby-sitter presents Bevel to be baptized. The preacher takes Bevel and, while saying the words of baptism, plunges him under the water. When he pulls Bevel up from the water, the preacher looks him straight in the eye and says, “Now you count, boy! Before, you didn’t even count.” The feast day of today focuses on the Sacrament of Baptism and this is very important for all of us because everyone who is listening to me here today is baptised. Baptism is called the door of the Spiritual life: “Vitae Spiritualis Ianua”, the way into the spiritual life. To speak about Baptism, we need to speak about Christianity. Christianity is not about doing the right thing, being a good person, having a heart of gold. There are many pagans, Jews and Muslims who are good people and have a heart of gold and yet they are not Christians. To be a Christian is to be grafted onto Christ, drawn into the inner life of God. Through Baptism we become a member of the mystical Body of Christ, we become sons and daughters of God. Baptism is about grace; it is the breakthrough of the Divine life in us. Baptism is Gods most magnificent, gracious gift to us who bring nothing to Baptism. Grace is given to us not because we are good people, not because we deserve it but using St. John words: “you have not chosen me I have chosen you”. This is why we speak about the primacy of grace.

Baptism washes away our sins we are born into a dysfunctional world. We could use the analogy of a child being born into a dysfunctional family, a family that has addictions to alcohol and drugs; no one will deny that this child is conditioned by this. When we are born, we are born into a dysfunctional world, this is why grace is important for us. In Baptism the Holy Spirit draws us out of this fallen world into a new world. Did we merit it? No; do we deserve it? No. In Baptism we are born again. Baptism lifts us up, saves us. Baptism is the beginning of the spiritual life and gives us the right to participate in the other sacraments. When we are born again, we need to eat: The Eucharist, encouraged and confirmed: Confirmation; when that life is lost through sin or mortally wounded through sin, we have Penance; to prepare us for our passge from this life to eternity we have the Anoinig of the Sick; and then marriage and Holy Orders gives us a mission in life.  In the gospel today we hear the words of God: “This is my beloved son.” These words are adressed to all of us.