In 2019, Bishop Joseph Tobin tweeted a questionable statement about Jesus’ Baptism,
“Christ stood with all of us sinners seeking redemption” and that “the sinless Redeemer was reborn in grace”.
Whether his intention was heretical or if it was simply loose and careless theology could certainly be up for debate, I wish to write to clarify the reasons for why Jesus was actually Baptized.
Did Jesus Require Baptism?
Contrary to the cardinal’s statement, Jesus did not require Baptism for salvation. Christ also did not need to be “reborn in grace”. Jesus entered the waters of the Jordan as an example for his disciples to follow.
In John 3:5 Jesus taught Nicodemus [and later us] of the necessity for Baptism when he declared, “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church recognizes the importance of this passage as well:
Baptism is the sacrament of faith. But faith needs the community of believers. It is only within the faith of the Church that each of the faithful can believe. The faith required for Baptism is not a perfect and mature faith, but a beginning that is called to develop. The catechumen or the godparent is asked: “What do you ask of God’s Church?” The response is: “Faith!” (No. 1253).
Along with modeling the importance of Baptism, though Jesus himself did not require cleansing from sin, three additional lessons may be learned from the Event of the Baptism of Our Lord.
Fulfillment of Old Testament
Several key events in the Bible relate to water. Here are a few examples of Baptismal events foreshadowed in the Old Testament:
The Great Flood in Genesis 6-8
Moses leading the Israelites across the Red Sea
Joshua Crossing the Jordan River into the Promised Land
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says,
Christians therefore read the Old Testament in the light of Christ crucified and risen. Such typological reading discloses the inexhaustible content of the Old Testament; but it must not make us forget that the Old Testament retains its own intrinsic value as Revelation reaffirmed by our Lord himself.Besides, the New Testament has to be read in the light of the Old. Early Christian catechesis made constant use of the Old Testament. As an old saying put it, the New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New (CCC 129).
The Baptism of Jesus is a feast to help us realize the fulfillment of God’s promises from long ago.
Prefiguring the Death of Jesus
Jesus’ Baptism foreshadowed his Death on the Cross. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI describes this perfectly in his work Jesus of Nazareth,
Looking at the events (of Christ’s baptism) in light of the Cross and Resurrection, the Christian people realized what happened: Jesus loaded the burden of all mankind’s guilt upon his shoulders; he bore it down into the depths of the Jordan. He inaugurated his public activity by stepping into the place of sinners. His inaugural gesture is an anticipation of the Cross. He is, as it were, the true Jonah who said to the crew of the ship, ”Take me and throw me into the sea” (Jon.1:12) . . . The baptism is an acceptance of death for the sins of humanity, and the voice that calls out “This is my beloved Son” over the baptismal waters is an anticipatory reference to the Resurrection. This also explains why, in his own discourses, Jesus uses the word
“baptism” to refer to his death (18).
Death to sin [original] gives way to a new life in the sacrament of Baptism. A new life of grace occurs through the waters of Baptism.
Door Way to Adoption
According to my favorite reference book– the thesaurus, synonyms for adoption include the following: acceptance, confirmation, ratification, and support. While each of those words convey a strong and position sense of adoption the synonym that stood out most to me was embracing.
Biological birth occurs through the profound act of sex. Unfortunately, not every child is welcomed as a gift. Sometimes unplanned pregnancies occur. Tensions arise. But people who desire adoption more often want to be parents. In the adaption process, parents actively seek out their soon-to-be children.
The Catholic Church teaches in the Catechism in paragraph 1265, “Baptism not only purifies from all sins, but also makes the neophyte “a new creature,” anadoptedson of God, who has become a “partaker of the divine nature,” member of Christ and co-heir with him, and a temple of the Holy Spirit.”
Enter New Life
Original sin tarnished the biology of humanity. Humans naturally seek their own will over the Will of the Father. Through the waters of Baptism original sin is destroyed. One enters into sacramental life of the Church.
Jesus didn’t require rebirth into the sacramental life of grace. John baptized Christ in fulfillment of the Old Testament. Christ’s baptism also prefigured his Death and Resurrection. He modeled the sacramental life in allowing himself to be baptized. German Catholic philosopher Josef Piper declared, “Adoption is the visible Gospel.” The graces received via Baptism bring new life. Baptized Christians become adopted children of God!
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On the first Sunday of Advent, our parish priest gave a homily about how during this season the world tends to speed up and get “busier,” but the Church is actually calling us to slow down and spend more time in prayer. My wife and I both left Mass that Sunday with a high resolve to “slow down” this season and not let the usual culprits get the best of us.
First Part of Advent
We got off to a great start. I joined an Advent Meditation group that I was invited to. I committed to some new service opportunities. My wife, Kate, took up extra prayer devotions and made a commitment to go to Confession regularly throughout the season. She went on a retreat. We both decided not to get too crazy with parties, and shopping, and all the usual suspects. We got our kids involved in some new Advent traditions. Things were looking fantastic.
The first week went really well. We worked everything into our already existing routine. We held each other accountable. It seemed like this was going to be the best Advent ever for our family spiritually. However, once Kate left for her retreat, we got a series of unexpected circumstances that through us way off track.
Our Series of Curveballs (or Snowballs)
Once Kate left for retreat, our two year old son got sick with a fever. He couldn’t go to daycare. The illness was prolonged by an ear infection. This was quickly passed to his older and younger brothers and the illness took a week and a half for our family to recover from.
My ability to work during this time was severely limited. Fortunately, my wife and I are both self-employed so it was somewhat manageable. However, ironically during this time I began to generate some new leads and was getting into the thick of a re-vamped marketing plan that I was trying to pick up some steam on before Christmas break.
Nobody was getting a good night’s sleep in our house for about two weeks. Finally, once we thought it was over, then came the stomach virus that afflicted everyone in our family including myself. Suddenly, I found myself stressing out over the season because I was backed up on work and we weren’t ready for Christmas. My prayer routine had gone out the window as I was just trying to stay above water.
God Has a Plan
Despite my best plans, my ideal Advent had been de-railed. I had to accept that my prayer life was not going to be perfect, and that I needed to focus on my top priorities for work and possibly save the other tasks until after the New Year.
I’m called in my vocation to love my wife and children. Sometimes that means I cannot commit to a regular routine prayer life and fruitful time of deep contemplation. Sometimes it means holding my five year old while he watches Star Wars until he feels better, or making sure the house is in order because our six month old is sick and just wants to be held by his mom.
The Advent Meditation Group that I joined is looking at Advent through the eyes of St. Joseph. My two biggest takeaways from this group so far in how I am preparing during Advent are:
St. Joseph lived his life in humble service to his Creator
St. Joseph had a prayer life that was organic.
The Best Prayer is a Humble Prayer
Although I am having trouble getting out my prayer materials at the same time everyday to find fruitful prayer in my routine, I have been seeking God in humble service (to my family) and trying to live a more organic prayer life.
My prayer life has not included things like regular Adoration and Scripture study like it usually does, but I have been taking time regularly throughout my day to thank God for my wife, my kids, the ability to work from home, and the people that have helped me in different facets of my life. It has left me with a more grateful, and simpler attitude.
My marriage has blossomed this Advent as Kate and I both practice gratitude, and I am learning to see God in everyday moments in a special way.
Wherever you are spiritually this Advent, whether your Advent hasn’t gone as planned, you didn’t plan anything special, or it is going better that you thought, I encourage you to stop and consider what God is calling you to in this next week.
Our individual call is just as unique as our set of circumstances. There is always a way to “roll with the punches” and discover our infinite God in new and exciting ways. God meets us where we are. Right in our glorious messes!
The Nativity story is the perfect example of finding God’s will and rolling with the punches. If you are finding that there is “no room at the Inn,” I challenge you to look around you and find your manger where you can slow down and sleep in heavenly peace.
Jonathan Hicks is a husband and father of 3 boys, ages 5, 3 and 6 months. He works as a grant writing consultant and has a passion for Catholic causes, particularly those that serve the poor. Originally from Scranton, PA, he currently resides in Grand Rapids, MI.
Caution ahead. Construction zone on Grief Highway, slow down ahead. Exit now with caution or stay to the left to take the outer belt around the city, avoiding depressing content at all costs. Alternate route suggestion: binge-watch stupid sitcoms on Netflix until you have numbed yourself to sleep.
I want to talk about grief. This isn’t going be easy! But this topic is important. In fact, it is so vital I had to consult an expert. According to C.S. Lewis in A Grief Observed,
Bridge-players tell me that there must be some money on the game ‘or else people won’t take it seriously.’ Apparently, it’s like that. Your bid—for God or no God, for a good God or the Cosmic Sadist, for eternal life or nonentity—will not be serious if nothing much is staked on it. And you will never discover how serious it was until the stakes are raised horrible high; until you find that you are playing not for counters or for sixpence but for every penny you have in the world. Nothing less will shake a man—or at any rate a man like me—out of his merely verbal thinking and his merely notional beliefs. He has to be knocked silly before he comes to his senses…
Grief Surpasses Culture and People
Grief is an odd thing. A truly transformative thing that should be where we stake our bets on what kind of strength resides within us when we are confronted with a loved-one’s death.
Our old neighbors were from India and became like family to us. The husband told me once of nursing both of his parents through cancer to their deaths, and all as a teenager and young adult. He explained that in his culture they had something like “the crying”. For days after a loved-one’s passing, they stopped the world, and wept. “We didn’t sleep; we barely ate…we just received visitors who wept and grieved with us.” It sounded horrific to me at the time, but in a culture where we feign self-control, it would seem contrary to our “togetherness”.
My Grapple With Grief
I was the last to go into my mother-in-law’s hospital room. A moment away from trying to be brave and helpful to my husband, father-in-law and siblings because I knew they had more “right” to be upset than I did. I also knew that I had to face my own earthly separation from her, and so with a deep breath I entered her room.
Our three aunts were there, weeping together (yet somehow very alone). We greeted each other attempting to comfort one another with tearful embraces. I approached the empty chair next to my mother-in-law, who laid peacefully on her hospital bed only an hour or two after she had passed. The next moment took my breath away—literally.
Shockingly, a spiritual vacuum seemed to engage and take hold of my soul. Tears, sobs, and the very breath pulled out of my lungs for what felt like an eternity. My stomach knotted and twisted in a way I never thought possible. I sobbed in a way I had never done before.
Grief Engulfs You
As my lungs continued to viciously choke breath forward, my memory mourned every sweet word she had ever said to me. Every stitch she had sewn into my clothing and every bite of every delicious food she prepared as if all meals were a wedding feast. Mostly, I mourned the way she accepted me as her daughter. She loved us all so well and united her suffering with Christ.
I think the level of my grief was shocking to me, and to my husband’s dear aunts, who were suddenly silent; perhaps suspended in the shock of what had overtaken me. I wanted to calm down. To control myself from what was perhaps too dramatic of a reaction, maybe even frightening to them. Yet it was too late! The door opened and grief entered in. I had no other option but to give it a place to rest its feet for a while.
From Grief to Good
It’s difficult to discuss this moment of pain and loss of self-control, but there is love in the offering. A revelation of grief as C.S. Lewis admits that writing “A Grief Observed” was recognition that “bereavement is a universal and integral part of our experience of love.”
During the event of my mother-in-law’s passing, we all experienced the loneliness of grief. This occurred whether we were together in the same room or not.
Grief is a solitary experience. People connect with one another in a way that impresses upon the soul. Our experiences seem to form a linear bond of relation that can never be duplicated by two other people; we can’t even recreate the exact same moment of interchange or experience that we had with another person again. Each moment of interaction with another person holds its own relevance in time and eternity.
Our actions and relationships help shape us into the person we are today— better or worse. These are the things that we mourn at separation. While I was hugging my mother-in-law, I recalled the words she stated at my bridal shower. The same type of care and love her mother displayed all her children. My father-in-law was remembering sweet embraces of their early marriage. He also endured in supporting in the days before her death. My brother-in-law missed the way she laughed at his joy. My husband missed his mother who always encouraged him.
Seek Love During Grieving
When God our Father reminds us through his son, Jesus, that the greatest commandment is love. Love God first. Then love our neighbor as ourselves. He knew that every word, look, impression, feeling, condemnation, encouragement and connection built an interior experience that is outside of time and space.
Everything counts. The preciousness of human relationships is entwined in the great tapestry of the Master. Listen intently, O little creature of His; ask for a pure heart that sees the other with His eyes. Go forward with a prudent pace, a burning heart and a desire to delicately preserve those in your path today with the knowledge that each encounter will be forever imprinted on their soul and yours.
This article was inspired by a recent viewing of the movie Unplanned. I cried a gut-wrenching grief. Such grief has been a rare experience since the day of my sweet mother-in-law’s passing.
Megan Naumovski is on a mission to remind the world of the love God has for each and every soul, and how that love deserves our response. Every day she is a wife and mom in her domestic church, but in the world she helps lead others to Christ though ministry leadership, teaching, speaking and blogging at The Domestic Church of Bosco, http://boscoworld.blog.