January 8, 2022 Essay: Our Baptism in Christ
As we celebrate the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, our attention should turn to our own baptism. What does our baptism in Christ call forth from us?
Pope Francis provides us with an answer to that question as he succinctly summarizes our understanding of baptism. “Our baptism has changed us, given us a new and glorious hope, and empowered us to bring God’s redeeming love to all, particularly the poor, in whom we see the face of Christ.”
Our baptism has changed us. The Church speaks of baptism as effecting an ‘ontological change’ in us; a change in our very being. Through baptism, we are incorporated into the life of the risen Christ. We are made members of his body individually and collectively. We are incorporated individually into the Body of Christ through the Body of Christ that is the Church. We then must affirm our membership in the Body of Christ by lives lived in faithfulness to Christ.
We are given a new and glorious hope. Incorporated into the risen body of Christ, we now live in the hope that one day we will share in the fullness of his risen life forever. I never cease to marvel at the hope which is at the heart of our Christian faith. We have the hope that one day we will pass through death into the very glory of God. It is easy to understand why so few Christians reflect seriously on the hope that ought to animate our lives. It just seems too fantastical to believe that we, flawed human creatures that we are, could one day share in the very life of God. Yet, by virtue of our baptism in the risen Christ, we live in this hope.
How do we live in a way that affirms our incorporation into the risen body of Christ and so strengthens the hope that is ours? We must bring God’s redeeming love to all, particularly the poor, in whom we see the face of Christ. There is nothing that gets me more agitated than to hear Christians bemoan the state of our world today, and especially when they suggest that God is somehow responsible for the sorry state of our world. It is our failure as Christians to consistently fulfill our baptismal responsibility to bring God’s redeeming love into the world that is responsible for the sorry state of our world today. We bring God’s redeeming love into the world when we are rich in compassion. We open our eyes and hearts to see the needs and suffering of others and seek to respond as generously as our circumstances allow to their needs and their suffering. We bring God’s redeeming love into the world when we choose the path of forgiveness and reconciliation rather than the way of retribution and revenge. We bring God’s redeeming love into the world when we choose to be persons of selflessness rather than selfishness. We bring God’s redeeming love into the world when we stand in solidarity with the poor and the marginalized of our world – the unborn, the homeless, the immigrant, the incarcerated, those recently released from jail, the addicted. All those whom our society dismisses, we must embrace, and advocate with and for them to secure their God-given dignity.
To truly live as members of Christ’s body, and to strengthen our hope of one day sharing in the fullness of his risen life forever, each of us must begin every day with this challenge to ourselves: “How will I bring the redeeming love of God into my world today?”
— Rev. Mark C. Hallinan, S.J., Associate Pastor