Fr. Britto's Blog

Our Baptismal Call

The Baptism of the Lord ushers in the closure of the Christmas season and we step into Ordinary Time. With all our attention on Christmas and New Year’s, we can easily overlook the significance of the Baptism of Our Lord. The Lord’s baptism was a crucial moment in the life of Jesus, and it also has serious implications for us, the baptized.

Even though baptism was a rite used in Judaism, it was used only on proselytes, those Gentiles who wanted to embrace Judaism. It was remarkable that the Jews at the time of Jesus flocked in huge numbers to the River Jordan to be baptized by John the Baptist. They were repenting of their sins and the people of Israel were ready to welcome the Messiah. It is then that Jesus receives baptism and begins His public ministry.

Two things stand out in the synoptic accounts of Jesus’ baptism. First, the Father’s voice declares, “This is my Beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased.” In other words, Jesus is chosen. Second, immediately after His baptism, He begins His ministry. In other words, He is sent.

When we receive baptism – even though our baptism is not exactly like that of Jesus – the same two things happen to us. First of all, we are chosen. The same words of the Father are pronounced over everyone who is baptized: “This is my beloved son/daughter in whom I am well pleased.” Second, as baptized, we are sent into the world to carry out the mission of Jesus. In this column, I would like to reflect on these two fundamental aspects of our baptismal calling.

First of all, we are chosen. We are not a cosmic accident. Every one of us has been given the gift of life and faith because of a deliberate choice on the part of God. If we are His beloved, then we are precious in His eyes. Our sense of self-worth draws from our God choosing us. We are valuable not because of what we have achieved or what gifts we have. We are valuable because God loved us first and chose us for His mission.

In the 1950s, a highway was built in Bangkok, Thailand, and it went right through an ancient monastery. As a result of this construction, the monks were compelled to move a very old statue of the Buddha where it had been erected several hundred years earlier. Everyone thought that it was a statue of granite or clay. During the construction, it became clear that it was actually made of solid gold. It was ten-and-a-half feet tall and weighed two-and-a-half tons. It is the Golden Buddha, and it still stands in the capital today.

When God made us, He made a statue of gold. Over the years, people have thrown dirt and mud on us through their criticism and condemnation. As a result, this golden statue, for all appearances, becomes a statue of mud. We too put mud and grime on ourselves and slowly lose sight of how God originally made us. The golden image is lost.

When others are negative towards us, we have to remind ourselves that our sense of self-worth should not come from what other people think of us. It should spring from what God thinks of us. Only His opinion matters, not others’ judgment. When God tells us that we are His beloved, we never stop being that. God never changes His opinion.

Second, we are sent. When God makes us His beloved in our baptism, He is not calling us to gloat in our exalted vocation. He challenges us to go out to carry on His work. Even in the Rite of Baptism, the priest or deacon hands the lit baptismal candle to the parents as He invites them to ensure that the child will carry that light of faith burning brightly into the world. Because God chooses us, we become His disciples. Because He sends us out, we are his apostles.

We are sent out to carry on the work of Jesus. The synoptic gospels tell us that Jesus went around all of Judea doing good. The good He did consisted of different things: He proclaimed the Good News to the poor; He healed the sick; and He drove out demons. If we want to follow the Master, we need to carry out these three activities in our ministry. First, we have to proclaim the Good News to the poor. What is the Good News that we are called to proclaim? We need to tell everyone about the love of God Who gave us His only Son. Second, we must heal the sick. Not that any of us have special healing powers, however, by our words and actions we can make people well, and we can heal their wounds. Finally, we must drive out demons. Basically, this means we must fight evil wherever we find it.

As our nation is at a crossroads, as our divisions seem to deepen, we need to fight the sin that divides. Division, anger, and hate do not come from God, but from the Evil One. Grace unites. It is the devil that divides. In his Letters, Paul tells us that the fruits of the Spirit are peace, love, unity, and kindness. As the baptized, we must be in the front lines to heal the divisions that tear apart our beautiful country.

Let us remember that because we are chosen, we have a mission to fulfill. None of us is exempt.

Who is Fr. Britto?

Born in India to deeply-committed Catholic parents, Fr Britto is one of seven children. He joined the Salesians of Don Bosco as a young man and was ordained a priest in 1981.

After he completed his priestly formation and his early education in India, he came to the US for his graduate degree in Journalism at...Read more...

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