The “Baptism of Jesus”

yikAXbRiEThis is a good news and bad news sermon, and I’m not asking you which you’d like to hear first. I’ll give you the bad news first. Many, many years ago, the Sacrament of Baptism was all about the past…Original Sin as though there’s something original about it which we’ve been inflicted with it since dawn’s time.

“Get the kid baptized,” was the only anthem heard. If there were a delay between the hospital stay and the Church, then the Catholic nurse would secretly drop a few droplets on the infant’s head, thinking to herself, ”Just in case.” They must have been genuinely scared people back then. Scared of an early death or even scarier about the infant’s salvation. And it all focused (please note) on the past. The kid did nothing wrong, except she was born! It’s the Adam and Eve syndrome that brought the past to the present. From the hospital to the parish rectory or as soon as possible into the church. (Too bad they didn’t have Uber back then.)

Born into sin? Yes and no. The “yes” is that our religious history continues but the “no” is the good news that I offer to you today. Baptism is now all about the child’s future.

“I claim you for Christ,” I say as I make the sign of the cross on her wrinkled free forehead. Many, many years later, in the hospital or nursing home another priest (since I’ll be dead) will anoint her with the same sign of the cross saying the words, “May God in His love and mercy help you.”

Today, Baptism is seen as the future. I say, “Are you ready as Christian parents to help this child reach the dignity that is our Christian faith? If ‘Yes,’ then please say it.” The same admonition is given to the godparents, hopefully, chosen out of their faith instead of, “it’s their turn in the family.”

The future. She’s been baptized into an unknown future. This is the authentic way. John baptized Jesus into the future, not the past. If I’m not mistaken, it’s the only anointing or commissioning that Jesus is given to begin his ministry. The lessor baptizes the greater. Why would John baptize Jesus when he’s without sin (the past) except for the fact that baptism is all about the future?

The lessor (me) baptizes a greater child who will replace me and how many others in her adventure, explorations and uncovering the wonders of this beautiful life. That’s the baptism of today.

I say at the baptism, “May you bring your dignity as a Christian unstained into eternal life.” Talk about a tall order to fill! Yet that’s the order given each of us in spite of our failings, weaknesses and silly disagreements.

We all know that sin is ever before us. We get it. What we do with it is the benefit of baptism and its signs:

Life-giving water that we readily dismiss each day

A white garment that gets stained but can be washed clean because of the sacrifice of Christ

Light – even when we think it’s been extinguished in our lives, how wrong we are because it can never, ever be blown out by anything or anyone

Oil that allows us to be the “priests, prophets and kings” of our beautiful faith

What am I forgetting? I think I got it all. Oh wait!

I forget the parents of this small, growing child. I also say, “May you the first of teachers in the practice of our faith and may you also be the best of teachers.” Another tall order for us ordinary people.

But please remember that baptism is all about the future. All of our futures. Whether you’re eight-years-old or eighty-some-years-old, our baptisms point to the future. The future? Well, first it’s today, and then it’s tomorrow.

That’s where the good news and the bad news meet.

Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS. All available in paperback or Kindle
on Amazon.com
“Soulful Muse,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture
Living Faith’s Mysteries,”
inspirational reflections on the Christian seasons of
Advent/Christmas & Lent/Easter – a great seasonal gift
“Spiritual Wonderings and Wanderings,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture
“Letters From My Cats,”
a collection of letters written by my cats over twenty years
“Bowling Through Life’s Stages with a Christian perspective,”
Bowling as a metaphor for religion and growing up

 

About Rev. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.

A Roman Catholic priest since 1980 and a member of the Society of the Divine Savior (Salvatorians). www.Salvatorians.com. He is associate pastor of partnering parishes, Christ King and St. Bernard parishes in Wauwatosa, WI.
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