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Father Muench Says...

The powerful message of Baptism

Jan. 20, 2016

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

I found the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord to be very meaningful this year.  In my mind, I tried to imagine Jesus standing before John the Baptist seeking his baptism. 

John’s baptism, as you remember, was for those who were confronting the failings in their lives and now wanted to make some changes, some conversion.

Then John baptized them in the Jordan River as a ritual to remind them of their decision to change their lives. 
Here was Jesus – the Messiah and Lord – joining with these others who were seeking some sort of reconciliation.
Jesus walked with these sinners – just as he walks with sinners now – with you and I even in our sinfulness.

His message was that we are good people even in our sins.  We are not bad people but may have to go through conversion, a constant conversion, a daily conversion in the forgiveness and love of God. 

God expects so much from each of us even as we conquer our sinfulness. We are good people and with God’s help we can make this world such a better place.

All four Gospel writers remembered this story.

In John’s Gospel story, John the Baptist admits he did not recognize that this was Jesus the Christ coming to him for baptism. 

He did so when the voice from Heaven proclaimed “You are my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”
From now on, Jesus will be recognized as the Lord and Savior who comes to teach us all of God’s great love for all of us.

John the Baptist had proclaimed often the coming of the Savior and he made it very clear to all that he was not the Christ.  St. Luke records that he said, “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming.  I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.  He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

You and I have been baptized in the Baptism of Jesus. This is our sacrament, the most important sacrament we will ever receive.

John says this baptism will bring us the power of the Holy Spirit and fire.  This Baptism is a new life that Jesus wins for us through his death and resurrection. 

Our Baptism is a sacramental life that gives us the life and power of the Holy Spirit to truly life as adopted children of God, to be his disciples in the world, to live like chosen saints, to accept Jesus’ challenge to make our world a better place.

John the Baptist further tells us that we will be baptized in fire. 

This is the fire of the Holy Spirit – the fire of God to transform us, to make us enthusiastic disciples of the Lord so that we will bring to our world the message of the Lord. 

All of us can and should bring the message of Jesus to others. We need to proclaim that God loves us even in our sins, that God cares about us, that God’s Mercy is ours, that God’s forgiveness is ours.

With the help of the Lord, we can make this world better by bringing Jesus into our lives and our world.
The whole incident reminds me of Pope Francis. 

Shortly after Pope Francis was elected Pope he agreed to sit down for a formal interview.  You certainly remember this story.  The first question the interviewer asked was “Who are you?” “Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?”

His answer surprised many but now, as we have come to know Pope Francis, we have grown to expect his surprises.  Pope Francis’ answer was “I am a sinner. I am a sinner who has found the Lord’s love and forgiveness and Mercy.”

Pope Francis is comfortable walking with sinners – being close to us, sinners – guiding all sinners closer to the Lord.

As we now have begun the Year of Mercy the message of God’s love and forgiveness and Mercy has been proclaimed in every Church in the world.

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