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Baptism of the Lord (Year C): Christ in the Christian

At the moment of his conception in the womb of Mary by the Holy Spirit, the Son of God began to exist as the man Jesus. You could say that, at that moment, God the Father said, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father.” At the moment of his baptism, God the Father says to John the Baptist at the descent of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove upon Jesus, “This is my Son, My Beloved; he enjoys my favour.” Again, at the moment of the Transfiguration, the Father says to the three Apostles as the mortal body of Jesus is illumined by the Holy Spirit, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him.” Finally, at the resurrection of Jesus in the power of the Spirit, the Father again says to Jesus who is now invested with divine life, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father.”

In all these key moments of the human life of the Son of God, we see the entire Trinity at work. Yet this is not just true of Jesus of Nazareth, the man. It is true of every human being, provided he or she has the opportunity and the will to let it be so.

First of all, at the moment of our conception in our mother’s womb, we are created directly by the Holy Trinity. Every human person exists by the creative will of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God is in everyone’s DNA. We are created in his image and likeness. That is our fundamental dignity as human beings. We bear God’s hallmark. We are his handiwork.  But that creation of us does not end at the moment of conception. That is just its beginning. Creation is an ongoing commitment made to each of us by the Trinity. In the Trinity we live and move and have our being. There is no time and no place, no circumstance and no happenstance as our life unfolds in which the Trinity does not hold us firmly and lovingly in its triune embrace.

Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection for us, we, too, are, or can be, brought to baptism. At the moment of our baptism, the Father says to us, “You are my child, my beloved; today I have become your Father.” He becomes the Father of our entry into eternal life – which is what baptism is. Baptism plunges us into the depths of the death and resurrection of Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. We are baptised in the name, that is, in the life and being of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. We no longer simply carry within us the life of this earth, the life of natural creation in all its beauty and tragedy; no, that life is caught up and thrust into the life of redemption, the life of God, eternal life. In that process, God does no violence to our humanity. On the contrary, he ennobles and elevates it without its losing any of its natural humanity. God never takes anything away from us. He only gives us everything. His death on the Cross is the proof.

As we go through life, if we are faithful to our baptism, we will experience in adult life one or more moments akin to the Transfiguration of Jesus. There will be no dazzling sun or voices from heaven, but there will be a moment, an occasion, an experience, a crisis in which the dignity of our being children of the Father will be brought home to us by the Holy Spirit in a new and possibly life-changing way. When that happens, we will know in the depths of our soul with great reassurance that we are beloved children of the Father and that his favour rests on us. We will know in a new way and with utter certainty the name and love and power of Jesus. We will experience that the Spirit has visited us and consoled and confirmed us on our path towards the Trinity.

Finally, it is our hope if we remain faithful that one day we will rise again in our flesh to gaze on God and to see him face to face, saying to us once more in the glory of our own humanity made divine, “You are my beloved child; in you I am well pleased.”

In the life of every Christian, all the main phases of the life of Christ himself are intended to be reproduced. For each of us there is an infancy and a hidden life in which we are equipped through work or study, through silence and prayer, through fidelity to the daily routine, to get ready for our public ministry. Our public ministry will be marriage or the consecrated life or the single life or holy orders. Our ministry consists of witnessing to the truth of the faith, of the Gospel, of Jesus Christ in whatever circumstances we find ourselves. It consists of worshipping God through the public worship of the Church and in private prayer, just as Jesus attended the synagogue and spent time in silent prayer to the Father. It consists of making moral choices which are enlightened by the teaching of Christ and the Church and handed down through the centuries. It consists, in other words, of loving God, neighbour and self in the way that Jesus did.

For all of us, too, there will be suffering and death, possibly with humiliation and rejection. We don’t know. But we do know that God will not ask of us anything beyond our capacity to endure because his grace will be enough for us. What were the sufferings of Jesus? Being misunderstood and maligned, being rejected, betrayed and denied; they were to suffer for the faults of others – all others; they were physical in the extreme, psychological in the extreme, spiritual in the extreme. None of us will have to suffer to the extent Jesus did. No one could. But whatever sufferings we do endure in life and in death, they will become our own salvation and the salvation of others to the degree that we suffer them for the sake of Jesus, in union with Jesus, out of love for Jesus and for others. We don’t know how or when we will die, but we can prepare for death already by offering it now to Jesus as an act of love, an act of gratitude for his death, an act of surrender, an act of ultimate trust in his power and his mercy.

Finally, we dare to hope, the mystery of the resurrection of the body and life everlasting will also be reproduced in us in God’s time. Until the resurrection of all the dead, we believe those who have died in the peace of Christ are with him in that peace and in his glory in ways known only to God. At the resurrection of the dead, our very flesh will live with the life of God. All the love we have given on this earth will return to us multiplied by all the love of everyone else and of God himself. The happiness and joy that will be ours will be the combination of the happiness and joy of everyone. For the joy of each will be in all and the joy of all will be in each. There will be no more pain, tears, sin, shame, separation, death. There will be no more night. There, redeemed humanity will take its God-given place in the very bosom of the Trinity whose divine life will be our endless bliss and completion.

On the day of his baptism, Jesus knew that he had been sent to make all this possible for his beloved brothers and sisters. The Christian life is not some obscure leftover from the middle ages, not if we understand it and love it and live it properly. We have the privilege of knowing all this and hoping for all this because God has called us into his Church. So, glory in your baptism! Glory in your vocation! Glory in your destiny! Glory in your God!