The role of the baptized in today's world

Al Cariño, OMI
Editor: Mindanao Cross
Reproduced with Permission

The Baptism of Jesus

In the Feast of the Epiphany, we saw the manifestation of the God–Infant to the nations through the Magi. In today's Feast of the Baptism of Jesus, we see another manifestation of Jesus — as Son of God and Servant of Yahweh.

Being sinless, Jesus did not really need the baptism of John as it was a call to repentance in preparation for the coming of the Promised One. Neither did John want to baptize Jesus. On the contrary, he wanted Jesus to baptize him. But Jesus insisted, saying, "Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." "Righteousness" here refers to the saving activity of God. And "to fulfill all righteousness" is to submit to God's salvific plan. Jesus' acceptance of John's baptism signified His identification with sinners whom, in the Father's plan, Jesus was to redeem.

Two aspects of the person of Jesus were emphasized at His baptism, namely, His being Son and His being Servant of Yahweh.

Son of God. When Jesus came out of the water after His baptism, the Father made known that Jesus was His Son: "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased." It must be noted that as Son, His very first move was towards His Father and it would always remain so. We see many instances of this in the gospel. When He was lost and found in the temple, He told His parents, "Do you not know that I must be about my Father's business?" Prior to His death by crucifixion, He prayed: "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit." At His Ascension, His last words to the apostles were: "As the Father has sent me, so I also send you." In short, the heart of the being of Jesus was and will always be His Father. And this Father–Son relationship was characterized by loving friendship and intimacy.

Servant of Yahweh. With the descent of the Spirit after Jesus' baptism, Matthew brings out another aspect of the plan of God for Jesus: He was the Servant of Yahweh. This we see in the first reading (Isa. 42:1–4, 6–7), part of which Matthew used: "Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, upon whom I have put my spirit; he shall bring forth justice to the nations." With Jesus' baptism, Matthew tells us that as Servant, more, as Suffering Servant, Jesus took up our infirmities (Isa. 53:4; Mt. 8:17) and gave up His life as ransom for all (Isa. 53:6–12; Mt. 20:28).

Separate as the Sonship and Servanthood of Jesus are, the two are really different aspects of one reality. For as Son of God, He came not to be served but to serve. His Sonship is thus also Servanthood.

At our baptism, Jesus has not only become our Savior; He has also became our Brother, that is, through Him we became adopted children of the Father and temples of the Holy Spirit. After our baptism, our parents said: "He is now a Christian." True, but a more correct way of putting it is: "He has now taken the first step in becoming a Christian." For as we saw earlier, Jesus' relationship with the Father was characterized by friendship and intimacy. Our relationship with the Father can not be less. We are thus to continuously strive to seek the Father and to do His will as our way of reciprocating His offer of love and friendship to us. Our baptism is thus just the beginning of this life–long spiritual journey.

Moreover, just as Jesus' Sonship is not separate from His Servanthood, we too must be at the service of others. And this, not for personal gain but to reflect in our lives the Father's love and providence for all of us.

Not too long ago, the Church equated "service of others" with "salvation of souls." For this reason, she shied away from social questions, such as problems involving politics and economics — problems which directly affect people and their right to live as dignified human persons. But in recent years, she has accepted — this on biblical grounds — that she must involve herself in such issues. Thus these days, as Christians, that is, as members of the Church through baptism, we must involve ourselves in the struggle, for example, against oppressive regimes which trample on human rights, ecological imbalance which is the major cause of dehumanizing poverty, etc. In short, aside from working for the salvation of souls (persons really), we must also work towards the transformation of society so that the Kingdom values of truth, justice, love and peace may truly permeate every aspect of society.

This kind of involvement may cost as time, effort and pain. But Jesus, as Servant of Yahweh, had already shown us the way — till death on the cross. As followers and brothers of Jesus, we may not do less. And to help us in this task of social transformation, let us pray that the Spirit who descended on Jesus at His baptism will always be with us in power.