“Feast of the Lord’s Baptism” by Fr. Baltazar Obico, OFM

Francesco Albani's 17th century painting

Incorporation into the Church and Sharing in the Trinitarian Life

In baptism, we are made “beloved children” of the Father.

The word padrino or ninong comes from the church-religious vocabulary to mean godparents, someone who will assist the parents of the child in order that the baptized child grows to be mature Christians. In other words, they serve as 2nd parents to their godchild that the latter should grow into Christian discipleship.

The word padrino has deteriorated into what is known as the padrino system in our culture that is contributive to our inefficient and corrupt bureaucracy. It has eroded the merit system; what is important is who your well-placed padrino is, who can facilitate favors on your behalf either through employment or government contracts.

The deterioration can be traced to the reduction of baptism becoming merely social events. Chief concern is given to the numerous ninongs and ninangs and to the lavish feasts for these invited guests. Less interest is shown in the explicit religious dimension of the sacrament itself. The obvious result is nominal Catholicism sometimes labelled as K.B.L. (Kasal, Binyag at Libing) as those are the only occasions where the baptized go to the Church.

Today, we celebrate the Lord’s Baptism. In Matthew’s account, John is reluctant to baptize Jesus due to his awe of Jesus; to the fact that he perceives in Jesus the “more powerful one.” While the Pharisees and Sadducees apparently lack remorse and a sense of sinfulness, Jesus appears to John to have no need for baptism. Jesus responds, “It is proper… to fulfill all righteousness.” The adjective “all” means that it is not simply a special requirement for the Son of Man, but one that joins Him with fellow Christians in carrying out all that God requires. It is Jesus’ solidarity with the messianic community that he allowed himself to be baptized. Secondly, the baptism of Jesus means the public recognition of His divine Sonship; the Spirit descends like a dove and a voice reveals who Jesus is, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” And lastly but not part of the Gospel proclamation, immediately after baptism, Jesus begins His public ministry.

In baptism, we are made “beloved children” of the Father. Traditionally we have associated Baptism with the cleansing of original sin. We experience a painful moral weakness in trying to do what our conscience tells us but also an inclination to evil which is traditionally called “concupiscence.” As a consequence we find ourselves in a society structured by sinful structures, injustice and moral observations. The struggle against sin must go on, but with our baptisms we are marked with Christ, indwelt by the Spirit and supported by the Christian community. Therefore baptism focuses on our having new life in Christ, not our washing away of original sin.

In baptism, we are with others as members of Christ’s body, the Church. This means our personal relation with Christ is never a private affair but always a loving relation that originates, develops and grows in union with fellow members of Christ’s body. Our baptismal life is never a solitary, isolated thing but a communal sharing with others.

Lastly baptism enables us to share in its three-fold ministry of Jesus; as Prophet, Priest and King. In baptism we are not only recipients of the privilege of being the children of the Father but we are also tasked to proclaim His message and establish His Kingdom through our words, deeds and courageous initiative. This ministry entails that we have to bring to the political arena our commitment to establish God’s Kingdom of justice and peace.

About Fr. Tasang and his reflections