Last Sunday, January 10, the Portuguese-speaking community gathered for the Mass of the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Fr Daniel Ribeiro SCJ, celebrated the Holy Sacrifice. In his homily, he stressed that in order to understand the Lord’s baptism, an understanding of the whole of Sacred Scripture is necessary. This, the priest reminds us, speaks of God’s love for human beings. Due to the fall in sin (disobedience), our union with God was broken and death entered man, and then with death, there was no encounter with God. The priest emphasized that it was necessary for someone who was God and human, who had the same characteristics as us, the same feelings, the same temptations and difficulties and did not sin – “Jesus came, and with his death and Resurrection Heaven is open, the human being found himself again with God. And how is it that rediscovering God affects our lives? Through baptism. At the moment of baptism, we are forgiven of our sins, as if we were inserted, immersed in Jesus.”
The priest continued and stressed that baptism must be understood in two different ways – “there was a baptism that happened before Jesus. A baptism of waiting preparation. There were several people who baptized; they knew the Saviour would come and they wanted to be cleansed. After Jesus, baptism occurs as a sacrament, as a reality that forgives sins. Jesus was not baptized in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Jesus did not need to be baptized, because he did not need to be put on hold, because he was the expected; he didn’t need to prepare, because he was the reason for everyone’s preparation.
Father Daniel concluded the reflection by extolling the mystery of union with God through the sacrament of baptism.
The priest recalled that parents should take care of their children with love, that care means that one cannot postpone the baptism, so vital to the Christian life, not leaving it for the person to decide at a later age.
“The Spirit and the Water” by the Fathers of the Church –In the early centuries of Christianity, we have reports on the mystery of baptism by the Church Fathers.
St Gregory of Nazianzus (4th century), illustrious theologian, said – “Christ is bathed in light; let us also be bathed in light. Christ is baptized; let us also go down with Him, and rise with Him. John is baptizing when Jesus draws near. Perhaps He comes to sanctify His baptizer; certainly He comes to bury sinful humanity in the waters. He comes to sanctify the Jordan for our sake and in readiness for us; He who is spirit and flesh comes to begin a new creation through the Spirit and water. Jesus rises from the waters; the world rises with him. The heavens, like Paradise with its flaming sword, closed by Adam for himself and his descendants, are rent open” (from the “Sermon of the Holy Light”).
St Maximus (4th-5th century), bishop of Turin – “Someone might ask, ‘Why would a holy man desire baptism?’ Listen to the answer: Christ is baptized, not to be made holy by the water, but to make the water holy, and by His cleansing to purify the waters which He touched. For the consecration of Christ involves a more significant consecration of the water. For when the Saviour is washed all water for our baptism is made clean, purified at its source for the dispensing of baptismal grace to the people of future ages.” (from the “Sermon 100, From Holy Epiphany”).