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Dear sisters and brothers,
The feast of the Baptism of the Lord marks the end of the Christmas season. This festive season does not leave Jesus as a baby lying in a manger. By the end of the Christmas season, Jesus is an adult who calls us to follow him. The baptism of Jesus is the prototype for our own baptism. Through baptism of water and the Holy Spirit, we come to share in the life of the Father and Son. Gracious words were spoken to Jesus: “You are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on you”. These same words are spoken to us at the time of our baptism, and continue to be spoken to us in every moment of every day: “You are my son or daughter, the Beloved; my favour rests on you”. Imagine if we were able to hear these words clearly; imagine how different we might be. To see ourselves as “the Beloved” is not to puff ourselves up with pride or arrogance. Nor does it leave us untouched by the need for conversion because each of us must face up to the ways in which we are unfaithful as “God’s Beloved”. To recognise ourselves as “God’s beloved sons and daughters” is simply to recognise the claim that God makes on us through our baptism. This is not a claim we make about ourselves. It is the claim of the seal of love that God places on us and within us.
In the baptismal rite, there is a little ritual called the “Ephphatha Rite” in which we touch the ears and eyes of the newly-baptised. “Ephphatha” means “be open”. It was a word that Jesus used when he open the ears of the deaf man. When we pray this prayer, we are praying that all the baptised – even those of us who cannot remember their baptism – will be open to “hearing” and “seeing” the mystery of God. This feast day challenges us to listen to a voice that is deeper than all our false images of God, deeper than all our destructive images about ourselves, and deeper than our feelings of alienation or distance from God. Because of our baptism, there is a constant inner voice that says to us, “You are my son or daughter, the Beloved; my favour rests on you”. We are called to listen to this voice.
We probably rarely think of our baptism. But if we are to be truly who we are called to be, then we need to see our own baptism as God’s fundamental mark of ownership on us. Baptism is not something that happened to us once upon a time. Baptism is something that lives in us, and continues to unfold through all the events of life – through everything that we experience. The waters of baptism are the waters of everyday living. We bob along in the currents of life, we can be taken by the ebb and flow; we sometimes swim hard, we sometimes feel as though we are drowning; and we often enough enjoy the cool and freshness of the waters of life, and feel like new again. Our baptism is the sign that claims us – like Jesus – as God’s Beloved. Through baptism, we become God’s daughters and sons. And our baptism is lived out every time we wake-up, and we live a new day, and we face whatever comes, living with a sense of abiding trust, and seek to act as lovingly, compassionately and justly as we can, befitting a true daughter or son of God.
Fr Anthony Mellor, Dean