Week of January 13, 2013


he baptism of Jesus reminds us of our own baptism.  Jesus defined himself and his ministry in terms of the servant described by Isaiah in today’s first reading.  Like Jesus we are called to learn who we are in Christ and what we are called to be in the world.  In today’s Gospel a voice from heaven says to Jesus, “You are my beloved son; with you I am well pleased.”  We are God’s beloved, too.  What we always need to remember is that baptism is not an end in itself but the first step in a lifelong process of putting on the Lord Jesus Christ.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was an example of one who lived his baptism.  He felt compelled to speak truth to power.  He openly criticized and resisted the Nazi regime that was swallowing Europe.  For his efforts, Bonhoeffer was imprisoned in a concentration camp and died a martyr’s death at the age of 39.  Yet, by his own admission, Bonhoeffer said he did not truly become a Christian on the day of his baptism.  He was well aware of the theological implications of his baptism, but he insisted that despite being baptized, he became a Christian only when he began to live seriously by the tenets of the Great Sermon and to pursue the answers to some very disturbing questions.

Bonhoeffer thought that a Christian does not merely profess to believe in Christ but experiences and lives Christ in the world.  An authentic Christian makes Christ the center of his or her life.  Rather than fleeing from the world to remain holy, Christians become holy by immersing themselves in the world in order to know and alleviate the plight of others.  When all others are silent, the Christian dares to question, “Who is Jesus?”  “Where is Jesus to be found?”

In 1933 Germany, Bonhoeffer said that he recognized the suffering face of Jesus in the persecuted Jews and imprisoned dissidents.  Of church leaders who seemed blind to the Third Reich’s crimes, Bonhoeffer asked, “Where is Abel, your brother?”  He was appalled by the church’s refusal to speak or act, and called for an uncompromising embrace of Jesus’ teachings.  He challenged his contemporaries, and especially the leaders of the community, to return to the costly grace of their baptism.  By drinking anew of our baptismal grace, we are empowered to follow Jesus Christ even at the cost of our own lives.  Grace cost God the life of God’s only Son, and what has cost God so dearly cannot be cheap for us.

Our baptism was the first step in a lifelong process of becoming like Jesus.  If we truly live our baptism it changes us and it can change our world.

(Taken from Patricia Sanchez’s reflection in Celebration)

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