Living our Baptism

Baptism of the Lord
Beloved in the Lord, in olden days, the people of Israel, after Moses had led them out of the Egypt, they traveled many years through the desert on their way to the Promised Land. The Promised Land was a place said to be flowing with ‘milk and honey,’ meaning, a wonderful place of happiness.   
But it would not be Moses who would lead them in; it would be Joshua who would lead them into the promised land. But they would have to cross the Jordan River to get there. So Joshua had the people prepare themselves, and then he ordered the priests to carry the Sacred Ark, and walk into the Jordan River. As they walked in, the waters actually stopped flowing; the dry river bed appeared, making a way for the people. The people therefore walked safely through the midst of the waters of the Jordan, into the Promised Land.    
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Friends in Christ, these events of the Old Testament are recorded as signs for us. The Promised Land is a sign of heaven. And the passage through the Jordan river is a sign of baptism. As the passage through the water was necessary to reach the Promised Land, passage through the waters of baptism is the path to reach heaven.  The ancient Father of the church Origen says, ‘the people passed through the Jordan and were baptized into Jesus, in the Spirit and in the river.’  
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Who led them through this baptism in the river? Joshua did. And the name Joshua is really the same name in Greek as Jesus.
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We today celebrate the Baptism of the Lord.  Christ himself, who though sinless, chooses to be baptized as an example for us, to show us the way.  Notice that when Our Lord is baptized, it says ‘the heavens were opened;’ and this is true of our own baptism. Baptism opens heaven for us, it makes it possible for us to begin the Christian life, the journey to heaven.   
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Baptism immerses us into a share in the life of Jesus Christ.  St. Paul says:  Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were buried with him through baptism into death,  in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead, we too may live a new life.’  
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God himself, has descended to earth to be born; the Son of God took humanity to himself, took on flesh; he lived our life. Jesus grew up like us, worked like us, suffered in his life; and he died and was buried. And he rose, to conquer death and ascended to heaven, to the true Promised Land.  
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Well, we are supposed to do the same thing. By our baptism, we are united to the Divine life of God. As we go through life, we work and suffer and  try to make our life an offering to God, just like Jesus. And we will die.   But the Good News is, we will rise and conquer death, and ascend to heaven – just like Jesus. That’s the plan,  and it all begins with our baptism, in which we share in the life of Christ.   
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St. Thomas Aquinas says:[i]  ‘By baptism a man is incorporated into the Passion and death of Christ, just as if he himself had suffered and died. Consequently, he who is baptized is freed from the debt of all punishment due for his sins, just as if he himself had offered satisfaction for all his sin.[ii]   
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At our baptism, we were consecrated to God, and this happens even as a child.  Some people say that we should not baptize children, that we should wait until they make their own decision,  maybe you’ve heard this before.   But what do the Holy Scriptures say?  If we turn to Acts 16,  we read that St. Paul met this woman named Lydia, and when she came to believe, it says,  ‘she and her whole household were baptized.’ Her household – that’s everyone, that means kids, and people then had a lot of kids.   
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In that very same chapter, it says that after Paul and Silas had explained the Faith to their jail guard,  it says ‘he and his family were baptized immediately.’  So whole families were baptized. There is no waiting for kids to grow up. This is the Bible.  
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In the year 215AD, in the very early Church, it explains what was already a well-established tradition. ‘Baptize first the children; if they can speak for themselves let them do so; otherwise, let their parents or other relatives speak for them.’  
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Why do we baptize kids? What would be the reason? In Colossians 2:11 it explains that Baptism replaces circumcision. Circumcision was the way into the Old Covenant, baptism is the way into the New Covenant.  At what age were you circumcised?  When you were 8 days old. That’s a baby!  Did they wait until you were 12 to decide whether you wanted to be in the Covenant? No. Same in the New Covenant.  Church law says: parents should have their child baptized within the first few weeks.  
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Baptism is not ‘a decision to join a club,  it is not a decision to join an organization. Baptism is adoption. We are adopted into God’s Family.  And when you adopt a baby, you don’t leave the baby outside on the lawn until it is old enough to decide whether to join your family. It needs the family in order to live.  Well – we want eternal life for our children, so we baptize the child into God’s family.  It’s what Lydia did, its what the jail-guard did, it’s what the first Christians did.  We take very seriously what Our Lord has said: ‘Go forth and baptize all the nations.’  
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At our baptism, we were consecrated to God.  And so many times we have renewed this commitment to be a follower of Christ, to be a disciple. Our life HAS to reflect this. Every time we bless ourselves with Holy Water we are reminding ourselves of our baptism – and so, the sprinkling rite today.      
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Today then, let us renew our commitment to Jesus Christ; let us really live out our baptismal vows in the days ahead.  There are only two roads for us: one to heaven, the other to hell.  
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A young man told me, he had really messed up his life, he was not living right. He went to confession, and the priest told him: ‘Maybe it’s time to start living out your baptismal vows.’  He was startled by that. He had not been realizing that he had a serious commitment to be a disciple of Christ.   
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Let’s us renew those vows. Decide again, that we reject Satan, and all his empty promises. No more compromise for us; no more giving in to the world; no more compromise.   
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May the Blessed Virgin help us by her prayers; Mary, pray for us, that we will be worthy disciples of Jesus Christ.

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[Entrusted to the prayers of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton]

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[i] Summa, Q 69 a1

[ii] He adds: ‘The pains of Christ’s passion are communicated to the person baptized inasmuch as he is made a member of Christ, just as if he himself had borne those pains.’

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