“The Lord was baptized, not to be cleansed himself, but to cleanse the waters, so that those waters, cleansed by the flesh of Christ which knew no sin, might have the power of baptism.” ~ Saint Ambrose
In a day and age that grows seemingly more complex on a daily basis, one in which the relationships that define and nurture us mirror this rapidly growing complexity, the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord evokes a simple yet powerful message: God loves us more for what we are - his beloved children - than for what we accomplish. And since we as God's people are given the gift of life purely out of His infinite goodness, this unconditional love on the heels of the gift of life is ultimately all we truly need.
it isn't always easy to grasp the magnitude of God's love when viewed through the prism of humanity and our imperfect attempts at love. Gaining familiarity with scripture is one way of lessening the impact of such limitations. Take 2 Chronicles 7:14 for instance:
“If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
As Catholics we believe that all are called to be God's children and thus chosen in His name. Humility and prayer coupled with a desire to love God with all one's heart, mind and soul as well as a willingness to love thy neighbor as thyself is the simple message.
Well....simple in its clarity anyway. A bit more difficult in the actual execution. After all, we were made for eternity yet forced to subsist in the finite here and now ("He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end." - Ecclesiastes 3:11)
God's message is always clear however, even further proof that His immeasurable love is meant for everyone regardless of their accumulated intelligence level. It is human nature to complicate it, which we have proven to be rather adept at doing.
In Saint Paul's Letter to Titus, the tireless misionary declares the wonder of our Godly Baptism in the context of the Holy Trinity. He reiterates that this gift of Baptism through the Father, Son and Holy Spirit was given to us not because of any righteous deeds that we may have done, but simply because of his mercy. Salvation therefore comes to us through the "bath of rebirth". In closing he goes on to point out that this in reality is our only hope of eternal life.
John the Baptist addressed the pensive and slightly confused crowd at the Jordan River by delivering the same message, many of whom mistook him for Jesus. Although filled with the Holy Spirit himself, John quickly went on to explain that "One mightier than I is coming; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire."
If we could somehow fully grasp this deep love that God has for all of us, it would undoubtedly help us to live our lives in a way that at least in part justifies the unbridled goodness that the gift itself entails. By humbling Himself to share in our humanity, God connected man to the divine. This allows Him to speak to us in ways that we can truly understand provided we listen to Him and take the time to pray for a deeper understanding of how God speaks to us in our day-to-day life.
Unconditional love and the promise of salvation in return for a life led in pursuit of a greater understanding of this gift, which will allow us to live modestly and in service to God and others.
Lord wash away my inequity, cleanse me of my sins.