Sr. Ann Hayden, MM, reflects on how the baptism of Jesus reminds us of our own baptismal mission.
Every time we witness a person being baptized, we look back on the baptism of Jesus from the viewpoint of a faith community. We also remember and celebrate our own baptisms as the initiation of God’s call for us to serve neighbors and strangers, without partiality, within our societal and church commitments.
As a volunteer member of the pastoral team of St. Anne Parish serving four faith communities of predominantly Mexican ethnicity in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, I have grown more deeply aware of the role of the sacraments in the life of this border community.
The four communities of St. Anne Parish are made up of families who have lived in the U.S. for generations, and of immigrant families who moved into the area between five and fifty years ago. Many young parents in the parish are separated from their families by poverty, distance, and border restrictions which keep them from celebrating life events with their extended families in Mexico. Our parish faith communities provide acceptance and friendship, becoming “family” for these parents. In these faith communities, the role of godparents is especially important. Godparents serve the child and the parents as mature faith advisors and are clearly recognized as such by cultural tradition and Church teaching. Baptism in our faith community is truly a community affair.
Being welcomed into a faith community is to begin a maturing process of learning to live one’s faith as a son or daughter of God. We know that Jesus (like God’s prophets and servants of old) submitted to a time of apprenticeship with his father, mother, and his extended family, learning the proper covenant life of the Jewish people, the personal relationship skills in family and community living, and the skills of a trade. Jesus listened as well to the signs of his time.
Jesus went to the Jordan a mature Jewish man deeply rooted in the tradition of faith -- a man who was just, loved tenderly, and walked humbly with God. Jesus sensed that his cousin was about something important. He joins John beside the Jordon to hear his preaching and receives his baptism. Jesus eagerly chooses baptism not knowing fully of the trials to come, or the faithfulness and courage he will need for life, or aware of the future written in his genes.
In today’s gospel reading, we can close our eyes and see Jesus standing in dusky river water. We can see him plunged into that murkiness and rise, anointed with tender peace, protection, and love. We can see a dove come upon him, cloaking him as Chosen of God. We clearly hear him being called forth from that embrace by a pleased voice saying “Behold my son, my chosen one in whom I am well pleased.”
In the midst of the river, Jesus experiences the Spirit burning in him as a new awareness of who he is, filled with a sense of his oneness with all life, and of his oneness with God. Today, in our testimony of faith, Jesus is again born of the Spirit as the Beloved Son of God.
Today we are reminded that God chooses us, as Jesus was chosen, to “bring forth justice,” not as warriors, but as servants in whom God delights. We are to serve God’s justice by being faithful, by persevering, and by speaking truth. God calls us, as Jesus was called, to be light for those who experience darkness in life, imprisoned by social or spiritual circumstances. God calls us, even as Jesus was called, to be a tender voice of God’s strength in life, and in the promise of unity in the communion of God among us. Receiving the oil, water, and the fire of baptism is to be anointed by the Spirit, as Jesus was, with the power to do good, to heal the oppressed, and to impartially speak God’s message of peace to all people.
Photo: Sr. Ann Hayden with a young adult at St. Anne's Parish.