You know the word which he sent to the sons of Israel, preaching good news of peace by Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), the word which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism which John preached: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.
Today we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord. At Jesus’ baptism, God the Father reveals that Jesus is not just any other man, but the Son of God. At that moment, he is anointed with the Holy Spirit, and in that instance, the fullness of the Trinity is displayed for all to see, and is recorded so that we may still see it today. There are three main things that are mentioned about Jesus’ baptism as recorded in this passage from Acts. The first is that at the baptism, Jesus is anointed with the Holy Spirit and with power. Now, this is not to say that before being baptized, Jesus had neither of these things. We know that when Jesus was left behind at the temple, he was already aware of who he was in some capacity as he said, “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49). But while he always had power and the Holy Spirit at his disposal, continually guiding him, his baptism made these gifts more “prominent” more “official” for lack of a better term. Jesus was now ready to begin the task that had been set before him before time began.
The second thing that this passage mentions is that after his anointing he did good things. Now, Jesus certainly didn’t do “bad” things before, but now that he had been anointed, or set apart, he did even more good. His lifestyle was now undeniably one of good works. Certainly this involved fulfillment of the precepts of Judaism, but also went much higher, to the point of obedience to the supreme law, that is, to love God and neighbor. This sort of goodness isn’t simply “not murdering” or “not stealing” or “not committing adultery”. This sort of goodness is “helping people live a more dignified life” and “giving to others” and “respecting the chastity of others”. Thirdly, Jesus now heals. After his anointing, when the Holy Spirit is upon him, his presence heals others, whether it be a physical ailment, a demonic possession, or forgiveness of sin and the restoration of hope.
We too are people who are baptized. Our baptisms are very similar to the baptism of Jesus. By our baptism we are declared to be children of God Most High. At baptism we are counted among his children, with whom he, God the Father, is most pleased. But that is not all, we too, receive the very things that Jesus himself received. First, we receive the Holy Spirit and power. God the Holy Spirit, comes and dwells in our souls. Make no mistake, God has always been there. The Holy Spirit has been forming us, leading us, but always living outside of us. Now, at baptism, he lives within us, and we receive the power, the grace, to cooperate with him. We, like Jesus, are now to live a life of doing good. We have the gifts to do so, and if we respond to those gifts, we do good. And like Christ, this good isn’t a mere list of things we must refrain from doing, but is a list of things to engage in. We have the power to help the poor, to love our neighbors, to respect them. Lastly, we have the power to heal. Through our actions, and words, our very presence can help to heal the pain that others experience in their souls. A smile, a helping hand, a shared Little Debbie snack on the bus on the way to school can spark a light in someone’s heart that heals a little darkness.
God has granted us a beautiful gift in baptism, to be the hands and feet of Christ, to become a part of his body, to carry out his ministry of good works and healing. We are free to accept and use these gifts or store them in a closet where they will do nobody any good. So let us consider our baptisms today and the rest of this week. Are we using our God-given gifts? Are we remaining faithful to our promises? Are we truly being the hands and feet of Christ?
Our Savior came to be baptized, so that through the cleansing waters of baptism he might restore the old man to new life, heal our sinful nature and clothe us with unfailing holiness.
-Antiphon for the Canticle of Mary
Evening Prayer I, Baptism of the Lord