Changed By Christ; Baptized With Water, Marked With Love
By Gretchen Erlichman
“Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him.” ~Matthew 3:13
Through baptism we are incorporated into the love of Christ and the life of the Church. In being washed by the waters of Baptism, we are forever changed and are sealed with an indelible spiritual mark, or character, that enables us to participate in a full sharing in the life of the Church. It was in Christ’s own baptism by John the Baptist in the river Jordan that this sacrament of initiation was instituted to enable us to share in the Divine Life of the Trinity and to conform ourselves evermore to Christ. St. Gregory of Nyssa, one of the early Church Fathers, puts this beautifully: “…we in receiving Baptism, in imitation of our Lord and Teacher and Guide, are not indeed buried in the earth…but coming to the element akin to earth, to water, we conceal ourselves in that as the Saviour did in the earth: and by doing this thrice we represent for ourselves that grace of the Resurrection which was wrought in three days: and this we do, not receiving the sacrament in silence, but while there are spoken over us the Names of the Three Sacred Persons on Whom we believed, in Whom we also hope, from Whom comes to us both the fact of our present and the fact of our future existence.” (A Sermon for the Day of the Lights) Indeed, by our Baptism, we are initiated into an eternal sharing in the Divine Life of the Trinity and participate fully in the life of grace.
Matthew’s Gospel records the account of Christ’s baptism, which we imitate by our own reception of the sacrament: “After Jesus was baptized, he came up from the water and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove coming upon Him. And a voice came from the heavens, saying, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’” (Matt. 3:16-17) The Three Persons of the Trinity were present at the Baptism at the Jordan, just as we, at our baptisms are sealed “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” At our baptism we are invited into the life of the Trinity, through the sacrament instituted by Christ at the Jordan, which the Father found pleasing, and by which the Holy Spirit seals our souls with an indelible sacramental character. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that, in being washed with the waters of Baptism, “the Holy Spirit has marked us with the seal of the Lord (“Dominicus character”).” (CCC 1274) In receiving this character, we are forever changed in conformity to Christ and we are ‘reborn’ into this new sharing in the life of the Trinity. The Catechism states that this sacrament “signifies and actually brings about death to sin and entry into the life of the Most Holy Trinity through configuration to the Paschal mystery of Christ.” (CCC 1239) Thus, let us strive to live out our baptismal vows by allowing our lives to be a testament to the way that we have been changed by Christ and marked by Love in our sharing in the Divine Life of the Trinity through Baptism.
Cleansed With Water, Salted With Fire
By Phillip Baker
“But the one who is coming after me is mightier than I….He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Mt 3:11).
There is nothing Jesus tells us to do that He has not done first Himself. He says “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must…take up his cross daily,” so He first carries His cross all the way to Calvary (Lk 9:23). The first step on this way of the Cross is baptism, for He says “no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit” (Jn 3:5). Therefore, He is baptized first Himself. No one should be afraid to follow Christ, for Christ, “the Way,” has first walked that way Himself.
And, as Jesus accepts Baptism as the first step on His journey, so He shows us that if we would follow Him, we must first be baptized. When our Lord was baptized, He “[sanctified] the waters of the Jordan,” as St. Jerome says, so that the waters, purified, are no longer a “removal of dirt from the body but an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 3:21). Because the Lord first baptized the water, now the water of baptism saves us – not because water washes away sin, but because the Holy Spirit, the same which swept over the waters at Creation, descends upon us in our baptism and recreates us (cf. Gn 1:2). Being born of the Spirit in baptism, we come out of the regenerating waters and hear the Father say to us “this is my beloved son,” for the Son has made us such by sending the Spirit upon us in Baptism (cf. Mt 3:17).
As the Spirit dwells in us, it is truly said “Beloved, we are God’s children now” (1 Jn 3:2). But Jesus’ “winnowing fan is in His hand,” and, as we are baptized with the fire of God’s love, the Holy Spirit, we are being purified – as He says “everyone will be salted with fire” (Mt 3:12, Mk 9:49). Fire both refines and purifies, and so our baptism is both a gift and a challenge. Having been so purified by our baptism in the Holy Spirit, shall we live lovingly, as children of the light, and deserve to hear the Father say “well done, my good and faithful servant” (Mt 25:23)? Or shall we scorn the gift of our baptism and, living as children of the dark, be thrown “into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth” (Mt 25:30)? This is the gift and challenge of our Baptism which our Lord calls us to. We have been salted with fire; may the fire of the Holy Spirit, then, preserve us in our Baptism unto eternal life.
COME PRAY WITH US!
“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them.” ~Matthew 18:20
Right now, more than ever, we called to come together as a Church to pray and to engage with the beautiful mysteries of our Catholic faith. As a response to this invitation, we are launching a weekly prayer and discussion group called Quarantine Conversations, which will follow the theme of the reflections of the Quarantine Contemplation series. Each week, we will meet on Friday evenings at 6:30pm CST/7:30pm EST to pray a decade of the Rosary followed by a short reflection and time for discussion. Please join us for all or part of these meetings, so that we may join our hearts in praise of our glorious Creator!
(After signing up, you will receive an email with more information about how to download Zoom and information about receiving weekly links to connect to the Quarantine Conversations.)
Hi! My name is Gretchen Erlichman, and I am an aspirant with the Dominican Nuns of the Monastery of Our Lady of Grace in North Guilford, Connecticut. I am a native of upstate New York, but I am currently residing in Silver Spring, Maryland. I am in my second 6-month fundraising period with the Labouré Society, in which I hope to mitigate my student loans and enter into religious formation. Watch My Video Read My Story Donate Contact
Hi! My name is Phillip Baker and I am an aspirant with the Dominican Friars of the Province of St. Joseph (Eastern Province). I am a native of Nashville, Tennessee, where I currently reside as I work to pay off student loan debt from my time at Syracuse University. This is my first 6-month class with the Labouré Society, and I anticipate entrance to religious life with the Friars this July.
Watch My Video Read My Story Donate Contact