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Father Muench Says...

Part of the Body of Christ, even as sinners

January 14, 2015

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

Jesus came to this world of ours to be with us people.  Jesus accepted us all – even sinners – even when we were sinners.

The Church’s Christmas season is completed each year with the Feast of the Baptism of Jesus by St. John the Baptist.

On this feast day, we celebrate the image of Jesus’ readiness to be with us all even sinners.  He even allowed himself to be considered by some to be a sinner himself.

John the Baptist was a bold, challenging preacher; he led people to realize that they could and should become better than they are.  His message is still full of meaning in our day.

John called sinners to change, to go through a personal conversion.  The Gospels tell us that many came to listen to John. His message was attractive and full of meaning so many made a decision to change, to discover conversion.

John the Baptist was truly clever. He wanted those who made a decision to change to remember the moment.  So, when someone was ready to make a change in life, John invited them into the water of the River Jordan with him  and he would plunge them under the water – a baptism.

We are told in the Gospel that one day Jesus joined those who stepped forward to be baptized by John.  John was surprised – John wanted to refuse as he recognized that Jesus was the long awaited Messiah.  Yet, Jesus still asked to be baptized – just like those other sinners.

Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist was marked by a voice from Heaven.  The voice speaks in recognition and honor of Jesus – “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

It was a rather unique and curious moment.  Jesus united himself with sinners and joins with those who had decided to find conversion.  He wants to stand in support with them – even a sort of friendship.

He still comes to support all of us, sinners.  He is always ready to show us the way.  He continues to be willing to be our friends even in our smallness, our sinfulness.

John told the people that his Baptism was a Baptism of water – a Baptism of repentance – but there will be one to come ho would Baptize with the Holy Spirit.

We, Catholics, are baptized through Jesus, baptized in the Holy Spirit.

Baptism is who we are.  We have been chosen by the Lord: through our Baptism our life matters.

As baptized disciples of the Lord we are challenged to make the world a better place by the way we live our lives.
I looked back to the Second Vatican Council in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium) for our understanding of Baptism:  “Through baptism we are formed in the likeness of Christ: ‘For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body. (1 Cor 12:13)’ In this sacred rite fellowship in Christ’s death and resurrection is symbolized and brought about: ‘For we were buried with him by means of baptism into death’; and if ‘we have been unite with him in the likeness of his death, we shall be so in the likeness of his death, we shall be so in the likeness of his resurrection also.’ (Rom 6:4-5)

Baptism unites us to Jesus in such a complete way that we speak of being part of the Body of Christ, the Mystical Body of Christ.

The Council reminds us that in Christ’s body a diversity of members and functions is engaged.  As the baptized we have been gifted – each with our own talents – and challenged to bring Christ’s love and spirit into our world.
The unique part of this message is that we are welcomed into the Body of Christ – even in our sins.  

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