Friday, January 09, 2009

Becoming God's children

SOLEMNITY OF THE BAPTISM OF OUR LORD
11 January 2009

Before performing a baptism, the priest approached the young father and said solemnly, "Baptism is a serious step. Are you prepared for it?"

"I think so," the man replied. "My wife has made appetizers and we have a caterer coming to provide plenty of cookies and cakes for all of our guests."

"I don`t mean that," the priest responded. "I mean, are you prepared spiritually?"

"Oh sure," came the reply. "I`ve got a case of beer at home all set!”

***

The situation above gives us a glance at how some of us regard baptism.

More often than not, preparing for one’s baptism means sending out the invites early on to the guests, making sure that the catered food will come on time, and yes, the souvenirs are ready for distribution!

And the most essential part of the ritual is, sadly, neglected: the disposition of those who would bring the child to the Church for baptism.

Some weeks ago, I recall a young friend who dropped an offline message in my YM asking me this question: Kuya Donnie, paano ba maging ninang? Hindi ko alam e. Help! (How is it to be a godmother? I am clueless.)

I found her inquiry innocent and cute. But on the second look, I recognized the profundity of this question. And before I typed in “You have to wear something white, and make yourself dashing because there will be photo ops right after the ritual,” I sheepishly replied “Live your Christian life to the full!”

This Sunday we celebrate the baptism of Jesus, the Gospel account of St. Mark (cf. Mk. 1:7-11), which we’ll hear proclaimed today, transports us back to that very event.

The passage opens up with St. John the Baptist preaching “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” We can imagine that the bank of the flowing river from where he baptizes was filled sinners who come to be baptized by him.

Then Jesus appears. For a time, recognizing that Jesus is the promised Messiah, the Baptist hesitates (my golly, He just preached earlier on that he is not even worthy to untie the straps of His sandals, what more to baptize Him!). However, Jesus insists and receives baptism. Then, the heavens split and the Spirit descending like a dove on him and a voice from heaven proclaims, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

The baptism of Jesus signals not only the beginning of his mission to proclaim the Good News; this also marks that he is about to face suffering.

The relevance of this feast goes down to us because at one point in our life, we have also received the sacrament of baptism. Our catechism tells us that “Through Baptism the Christian is sacramentally assimilated to Jesus, who in his own baptism anticipates his death and resurrection.” (CCC 537)

Let this feast of our Lord’s baptism draw us closer to the importance of our very baptism. More than the social aspect of the celebration, this ritual should be highlighted on its spiritual plane since our baptism marks that God owns us not as a slave, but His very own child.

If it is true that “a tree is known by its own fruits,” may we really strive to show others the quality of the “Tree” from where we come from by living an excellent Christian life: compassionate, understanding, and forgiving.