Dear Friends in Christ,
Welcome back to this the first post of the Bishop’s Blog in 2015!
‘He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit’. Mark 1:8
This Sunday’s feast of the Baptism of the Lord brings the great Christmas liturgical season to a close. It would be a mistake however to look on today’s feast as constituting no more than the tail end of the Christmas celebration, for the Lord’s baptism was a deeply significant and important moment for him and as a feast remains rich in meaning for us.
When Christ became part of the assorted masses that flocked to John for baptism at the river Jordan he was showing his humble identification with sinful humanity, for he was like us in every way but sin. The Evangelists present us with the moving spectacle of the Son of God submitting himself to John’s baptism of repentance in the waters of the Jordan. The Fathers of the Church like to point out that Christ by his baptism made holy for all time the waters of Christian baptism. We therefore have been baptised in water sanctified by Christ himself.
We are told that as Christ came up out of the water the Father’s voice from heaven was heard to declare, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on you.’ The Father was thus affirming that the newly baptised Son of Man was also the Son of God. In his humanity Christ was being confirmed in his divinity.
When the saving water of baptism is poured over us we too become a son or daughter of God, and a ‘favourite’ of God the Father. Christ was the Son by nature, we are sons and daughters by adoption, thanks to his redeeming work.
The Holy Spirit was also present at the Lord’s baptism in the form of a dove, which rested over Christ. The power of God the Spirit would henceforth overshadow him throughout his public ministry, equipping him to perform those mighty deeds of healing and proclamation which the gospels record.
The feast of the Lord’s baptism is therefore a revelation of the mystery of the Holy Trinity as well, for both God the Father and the Holy Spirit were seen to be active as Christ was about to begin his ministry of redeeming the human race. It is no coincidence then that essential to Christian baptism is the invocation of the most Holy Trinity: I baptise you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
The New Testament writers, especially the apostle Paul, speak of Christian baptism in terms of a new birth. When we are baptised in Christ we are mysteriously begotten by God into the new life of the risen Christ, and now form part of his family, the Church. Christ is the source of this new divine life which empowers us to live in the world as Christians.
The so-called hidden life of Christ ended with his baptism in the river Jordan, and a new sphere of activity now awaited him in the towns and villages of Palestine.
Today’s feast is a powerful reminder to us who have been baptised, that as beloved sons and daughters of the Father we, like Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit must set about our tasks of proclaiming and constructing the Kingdom of God according to the gifts God has given us.
Happy Feast of the Baptism of the Lord! – have you seen this wonderful news?
+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster