The significance of Christ’s baptism
The Baptism of the Lord
By Fr. Roy Cimagala
Why did Christ have to be baptized? Even John the Baptist was surprised when Christ went to him asking to be baptized. But Christ insisted that he be baptized.
The simple answer, of course, is because by doing so would give us the sacrament of baptism that would enable us to be united with Christ in the spirit. Let’s always remember that our life is not anymore just our own. It becomes life with Christ who remains present, available and actively continuing his redemptive work and dispensing its merits to us in the sacramental economy that starts with our own baptism.
With baptism, we open ourselves to the possibility of receiving all the other sacraments that fully satisfy our spiritual needs with the view of attaining our salvation and our eternal life with God our Father, the ultimate goal meant for us.
We have to understand then that our life has to revolve around the sacraments that serve to build it up and make it Christ’s life as well. As the Catechism puts it, all the sacraments form one organic whole, and they “touch all the stages and all the important moments of Christian life.” (1210)
We need to understand that our life with Christ is not only a human and natural life. It is a supernatural life, gratuitously given to us. But we need to be properly receptive to it. Thus, we need to develop an appetite for it.
We need to make this point clear because I have the strong feeling that we as Christians in general do not realize this. And if we do, we do not know how to go about it. At best, what we usually do is simply to avail ourselves of some Christian practices, more out of compliance, without realizing how those practices should have their effect in us. In other words, we can generally call ourselves as Christians by name only, but not the authentic ones.
Developing the supernatural life is simply a matter of identifying ourselves vitally or existentially with Christ who is God who became man to save us. His humanity is united to his divinity so that we can, through his humanity, find “the way, the truth and the life” of God. In other words, that we can have the supernatural life of and with God as we are meant to have.
We have to remember that with God becoming man, he identifies himself with us in all possible conditions we can be in, including in our state of sin, and he offers us a way of how to deal with these conditions to recover our dignity as children of God.
This means that we should have the very mind of God, as St. Paul said of himself. (cfr. 1 Cor 2,16) That is why he said, “Be imitators of me as I am an imitator of Christ.” (1 Cor 11,1) It is in having the mind of Christ that we share in the spirit of Christ, and thus become like Christ. Yes, we are meant to be “another Christ, if not Christ himself” (alter Christus, ipse Christus) who is actually the pattern of our humanity and the savior of our damaged humanity.
And this mind or spirit of Christ has been revealed to us quite clearly through his teachings and example, or through everything that he has given us and is now kept, taught with divine authority and guarantee, in spite of the weaknesses of men, in the Church.