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GOSPEL COMMENTARIES


 

 

BAPTISM OF OUR LORD 

(Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:7-11; Luke 3:15-21)

John the Baptist first preached repentance and then invited those who have repented to undergo Baptism. This shows that the recipients must first have repented or be possessed with a pure soul before undergoing Baptism. A pure soul means the recipient wants to know and do God's will over and above his own will. 

So when the Pharisees and Scribes went to John for Baptism before they even repented, John rebuked them for they did not have pure souls.  To undergo Baptism without a pure soul is almost useless because without a pure soul you will end up staining your baptismal grace, rendering the baptismal grace ineffective.  

All men are born with original sin and, therefore, have the tendency to choose evil over good.  When man actually does choose evil, he stains his soul. Baptism removes the stain but not the tendency; though Baptism gives us the ability or power to weaken or totally remove the tendency.  But most Catholics do not know how to use this power to eradicate the tendency to sin. So we all grow up with the tendency intact. When we receive Baptism, because the tendency to sin is still there, the grace of baptism becomes ineffective. We lose it almost as soon as we receive it. 

Knowing well that for most men they will lose their baptismal grace right away because of their ignorance in maintaining a pure soul, as in maintaining the pure soul of a child, or, in the case of an adult, in acquiring a pure soul, God instituted another sacrament, Penance. As in Baptism, a pure soul, through a life of repentance, is needed for the grace of Penance to be effective. Without removing the tendency to sin in man, one would sin almost immediately after he receives the sacrament of Penance. 

Christ came to teach us how to remove both the tendency to sin, which is the consequence of original sin, and the stains of sins. This is accomplished through obedience to His commands which spiritual writers commonly call a Life of Repentance. So, as John preached, one must have repented before going to him for Baptism at the river Jordan, which was not the case with Christ since He neither had the tendency nor the stain of sin. So John exclaimed that Christ did not need Baptism. 

John himself lost the tendency and, as a consequence, he had no stain when Mary visited Elizabeth. For a few months before the visit, he had original sin  and, therefore,  the tendency. The tendency in some way had stained his soul and so he found the necessity of being baptized; "It is I that must be baptized..."

It is better to remove the tendency in us through a life of repentance when receiving the sacrament of Penance. If we do it this way, the sins we confess will never return. A sign that the tendency is still there is that, after confession, we fall into the same sin. 

Christ was baptized when He was thirty years old. Thirty had been the symbol of man coming into the fullness of his sinfulness. It is said that man usually has committed all the sins by thirty. From birth to 10, man does foolish things. From 10 to 20, he gives in to the sins of the flesh and anger. At 20 to 30, he gives in to avarice. Since man, at thirty, is the picture of the fullness of sin, Christ was baptized at thirty to show the opposite, the fullness of grace which is possible if , from the very beginning, man follows Christ by denying himself, taking up his cross and following Christ.

 

 

 

(updated 03-18-02)

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                                                                                        - Teresa of Avila

 


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