By Karen Sheehy
Today is the Feast of the Baptism of our Lord. This event, although always significant to me, seemed to take on greater importance in the wake of two very important moments in my life. The first, my visit to the proposed location of Jesus’s baptism on the River Jordan, and the second, our son’s baptism into the Church eighteen years ago. While the first added a sort of physicality to my biblical understanding, the second added a deeper spiritual awareness of the sacramental realities made present in the water, oil, breath, white garments, and lighted candles of Baptism.
Six weeks after Joseph’s birth, Tom and I watched with immense gratitude as the priest poured living water on our son’s forehead saying, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” Dressed in a beautiful white gown, he cooed and joyfully accepted the cleansing Spirit of mercy. I smiled, knowing that my father and I had both worn that same gown during our own sacrament of initiation. At that moment, I felt a profound sense of gratitude for faith traditions and my family’s participation in this big day. Cherishing my new gift of life, I offered my sincere gratitude to God for His wisdom and plan of sheer goodness for my life, my husband’s life, the life of our adoptive son, and that of his birth family as well.
Gazing upon my small newly baptized child, I pictured a rose, beautiful but containing thorns, for I knew that adoptive children, especially those exposed to alcohol and drugs in utero, often faced hardships and difficulties. Accompanied by God and the promise of our bright future, I remained confident in my ability to solve any issues that may come our way. Despite this confidence, I had no idea what self-sacrificial love entailed, for there were so many aspects of the Kingdom of God and life of Christian discipleship awaiting my discovery.
In today’s first reading (Isaiah 42:1-4), we read about a promised servant of the Lord, who, filled with the Holy Spirit, would bring justice, peace and love to all the nations. This promised servant is none other than the incarnate Son of God, Jesus Christ. Jesus is the promised Messiah, a King who would rule, not with loudness of words or harshness of actions, but with humility, love and service. Christ’s earthly ministry, launched on the banks of the River Jordan, would end in victory, a victory gained through His death, resurrection and ascension into heaven. Through Baptism and the power of the Holy Spirit, we participate in the paschal mystery and Christ’s resurrection to new life.
In today’s first reading (Isaiah 42:6-7), we find Christ’s promised victory over darkness and our own call to serve and love others, to be a light to all the nations. 18 years after my son’s birth and baptism into the faith, I am once again reminded of this call, for his life and my own. Next month, my son will be spending 1-2 months with his birth family in Florida. To me, this visit embodies the paschal mystery and the spiritual reality of our baptismal participation in Christ’s death and resurrection to new life. As a mother and disciple of Christ, I am called to love, serve, and let go of any false concepts of earthly possession. My son, Joseph, as a son of God, is called to love, to go out and share the light of Christ’s love with others. All the while, he is called to hope and search for the healing touch of God for himself and his birth family.
I pray that the light of Christ, bestowed upon my son and each of us during the sacrament of Baptism, will continue to grow, inflame and attract all those we encounter, so they, in return, will desire to know its source, Jesus Christ our Lord, the King and Savior of the world.
About the author:
Karen Sheehy is a devout Catholic, wife and mother, motivational speaker, blogger, president of a non-for-profit, and developer of spiritualsafariguide.com, your passport to a world of spiritual inspiration and understanding. To learn more about Karen Sheehy and her newly released book entitled, The Healing Eyes of Mercy. A Trinity of Love, please visit http://www.spiritualsafariguide.com