One with Christ in Baptism

Mark 1: 7-11
1 Jn 5: 5-13/ Ps 147: 12-13. 14-15. 19-20

I baptize you with water; but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.
(Mark 1:8)

Our sin had been cleansed with water,
We received God’s Spirit from above,
We were baptized by the Father,
And now bear the mark of His love.

This was what John the Baptist proclaimed: “One mightier than I is coming after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, He saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon Him. And a voice came from the heavens: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:7-11)

Reflection

The life of our Lord Jesus as related in the Gospel of Mark begins differently from the other synoptic Gospels. Matthew began his Gospel with a genealogy of our Lord, while Luke gave detailed birth narratives of both Jesus and John the Baptist. Even the Gospel of John, which, like Mark also started with a prologue of John the Baptist, made no mention of Christ’s baptism in the river Jordan. It was as if Mark alone wanted to emphasize that the ministry of the Messiah started at the moment when He rose from the waters of the Jordan to be anointed by the life-giving Baptism of the Holy Spirit, and to be affirmed by His Heavenly Father. Jesus submitted Himself to St. John’s baptism of repentance (Mt.3:13-16), not only as a sign of His humility as a man, but in identifying with the people of Israel who came to John to be baptized. He came for sinners, and His baptism was an act of solidarity with them.

The sacrament of Baptism is not merely a ritual that signifies death and rebirth. It is a sacred anointing into one’s membership in the Church of Christ, and as heir of the Father’s kingdom. It is in imitation of our Lord’s own immersion in the river Jordan, an act always pleasing to God our Father. More than any other element on earth, water is the most symbolic of life. The Bible is replete with hundreds of references to water as nourishment and cleansing agent. In the very first book of the Bible (Genesis), in the first line of the first chapter, when the world was still a wasteland, there was already water. The first chapter of Psalms talks about nourishing streams of water. And in the last chapter of the last book, Revelation, we read, “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’ Let the one who thirsts come forward, and the one who wants it receive the gift of life-giving water.” (Rev.22:17)

Yes, we are all connected to water. Our bodies are 96% water. We cannot survive after a few days without it. As water is the nourishment of our physical body, so the Spirit of God is the nourishment of our soul. We cannot live without Him. In this light do we understand why Jesus as man was baptized by John the Baptist in the river Jordan, and was at the same time baptized by the Father with the Holy Spirit.

This episode in Mark’s Gospel shows the significance of the Sacrament of Baptism in every Christian’s life, as we identify with our Lord Jesus Christ, Who first initiated this Sacrament in the river Jordan. In every baptism, the Holy Spirit descends upon the child, and the Father claims it as His beloved one. We all know the day we were born, our birthday, which we celebrate every year. But how many of us remember the day we were baptized? Our baptismal date is actually more important than our birthday, because it was the day that we became a child of God, and one with our Lord Jesus in His own baptism. It was the day that we truly became a Christian. But it doesn’t matter if we do not know the date when we were baptized, as long as we affirm our baptism as God’s child in all our words and actions, and we live our lives in imitation of our Lord Jesus, making His mission on earth our own.

Water from the side of Christ, wash away my sins, and nourish my spirit, that I may be a new creation, purified by Your great sacrifice on the cross. Amen.

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