Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, January 2, 2022

Sister Anne Madeline Brost, OSB reflects on the meaning of baptism and the scripture readings: Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11; Titus 2:11-14, 3:4-7; Luke 3:15-16, 21-22

Jesus chose to be baptized. He wanted to be sent on his Mission. The crowd heard, “You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.”

Why are we baptized?

If I accept that Creation is evolving and that the story of Adam and Eve and Original Sin are stories, not history, I need to come up with a new meaning for my Baptism. At Jesus’ Baptism the crowd heard, “You are my beloved Son. With you I am well pleased.”

I think Jesus’ Baptism was his own acceptance of who he is, God’s beloved Son.

If that is so, and I follow Jesus, then I too must accept who I am,

A beloved child of the Divine, and the Divine is pleased with me. I belong to God. I am part of God’s creative Energy.

I baptized a baby many years ago. The baby was the son of our Kannah Creek friends, Shirley and LeRoy Stadelman. His name is Gerad. Gerad died before he was born. His birth was overdue and then his umbilical cord knotted and he died, so he couldn’t help with his birth. His mother labored through the night; it was a Saturday night[SAMB1] . Mary and I were with Shirley, LeRoy, and Father Ricowski at the hospital.  Father had to get up early for 6:00 mass, so when he went home, at 2 a.m., he told me to baptize the baby when it was born.

There was sadness because Gerad’s body was not living but joy too that he belonged to the family.

My experience when I said the words of baptism was that I was proclaiming Gerad as a child of God and a member of the Stadelman family.  It was not that Gerad was being freed from sin.

In Marilynne Robinson’s novel Gilead, two pious boys, both sons of Protestant ministers, who grew up to be ministers themselves, baptize a litter of kittens.  John Ames, who is telling this story to his son, writes, “I still remember how those warm little brows felt under the palm of my hand.  Everyone has petted a cat, but to touch one like that, with the pure intention of blessing it, is a very different thing. It stays in the mind. For years we would wonder what, from a cosmic viewpoint, we had done to them. It still seems to me to be a real Question. There is a reality in blessing, which I take Baptism to be, primarily. It doesn’t enhance sacredness, but it acknowledges it.”

Baptism—renewing our baptismal vows, is announcing that we are God’s beloved. Gerad Stadelman and John Ames’ kittens are not deceived, as we sometimes are, into thinking we are not worthy of being God’s beloved.

That is how I am challenged today, to delight with God in my goodness, to accept the gift of the Fire of God’s creative love and energy.


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