One of the many themes that unites the seven readings from the Old Testament, the Epistle of Saint Paul to the Romans and the Gospel passage from Matthew is that of Baptism.
Genesis 1:1-2:2. The first reading introduces us into the mystery of creation. During the first six days of creation God separates the light from the darkness, the sky from the water and the land from the water, and then he fills each of these spaces with the sun and the moon, the birds and the sea creatures, and, on the sixth day, fills the land with animals and man. Man and woman are the pinnacle of his creation and are created in God’s image and likeness. Man is able to know and love God and enter into communion with God. On the seventh day, God rests and invites man to share in his rest. How does this relate to Baptism? After the fall, man needed to be redeemed and freed of the curse of death. Christ is our redeemer and the one who takes upon himself the curse of death so as to destroy death. Our Baptism is a sharing in Christ’s death and resurrection. Our Baptism brings us to new life and makes us a new creation. In this way, God’s original plan for man – communion with him – is restored.
Genesis 22:1-18. The second reading introduces us into the mystery of the covenant God made with Abraham. God promises that he will bless Abraham and in his descendants all the nations of the earth shall be blessed. This descendant of Abraham is Jesus Christ. He is the one through whom all nations are blessed. This blessing is given to us through Baptism. We are descendants of Abraham through faith in God and his salvation. Baptism is the Sacrament of faith.
Exodus 14:15-15:1. The crossing of the Red Sea, proclaimed in the third reading, is an eloquent foreshadowing of the Sacrament of Baptism. The people of Israel move through the waters of the sea and pass from slavery to freedom. In Baptism, we too pass through the waters, leave behind the slavery of sin and enjoy the freedom of the children of God.
Isaiah 54:5-14. The fourth reading introduces us into the mystery of the wedding covenant between God and his people. “The One who has become you husband is your Maker”. Israel broke this covenant at the foot of Mount Sinai. Yet God does not abandon his bride and calls her back: “The Lord calls you back, like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit, a wife married in youth and then cast off, says your God. For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with great tenderness I will take you back”. God promises a new wedding covenant, that will never be broken. This is the covenant established by Jesus. Baptism is our entry into this new covenant. We are washed cleaned and can enter into union with God.
Isaiah 55:1-11. The fifth reading proclaims: “Thus says the Lord: All you who are thirsty, come to the water!”. Our deepest thirst is not for water which only quenches our thirst for a short time. No, we thirst for the water that gives life. This is the water of Baptism, which Jesus provides for us on the Cross. This is the water which quenches our spiritual thirst for God. He is the only one who can satisfy us.
Baruch 3:9-15, 32-4:4. The sixth reading, from the prophet Baruch accuses the people of forsaking the fountain of wisdom. Baptism is not only a cleansing from sin, it is also enlightenment. Through Baptism we are given the gifts of the Holy Spirit: knowledge, understanding, counsel and wisdom. Wisdom helps us see things from God’s perspective and judge things in the light of eternity. It gives us a new understanding of life and its goal. Baruch says that those who forsake wisdom will die and encourages the people to walk by the light of wisdom and reach the splendor of wisdom, the glory of God the Father.
Ezekiel 36:16-17a, 18-28. Ezekiel, in the seventh reading, prophesies that, in the new and everlasting covenant, God will sprinkle clean water upon us and cleanse us from all our impurities. Through the clean water of Baptism we are given a new heart and a new spirit. The new law of charity is written on our hearts. We become God’s people and are called to live as his sons and daughters.
Romans 6:3-11. Saint Paul teaches that our baptism is a baptism into Christ’s death. We are buried with Christ and we are raised from the waters into new life just as Christ was raised from the dead. This new life is a union with him. Our old life is crucified with Christ. We are no longer slaves to sin. We are dead to sin and live for God alone.
Matthew 28:1-10. In the Gospel, Mary Magdalene encounters an angel who tells her that Jesus is victorious over death. Jesus Christ is risen. On the way to announce this great joy to the disciples, Jesus meets them and greets them. Jesus suffered and died for us, so that we might share in the glory of God.
Baptism, then, makes us new creatures, it bestows on us the blessings promised to Abraham, it releases us from the slavery of sin and brings us into new life, it brings us into the new wedding covenant between God and his people redeemed in Christ, it quenches our spiritual thirst for God, it gives the wisdom that enlightens our path to God, it purifies us and gives us a new heart and a new spirit, it crucifies our old self and our sinful body and raises us up from the dead, and, finally, it is our share in Christ’s death, in his victory over death and in his resurrection.
Readers may contact Father Jason Mitchell at [email protected].