Indelibly Sealed, and Clothed
(Baptism of the Lord: Isaiah 40:1-11; Titus 2:11-14, 3:4-7; Luke 3:15-22)
“One baptism for the forgiveness of sins.” This phrase near the end of the Creed reflects the conclusion of a debate in the early Church. The question was whether Christians who were baptized by heretics, had to be baptized a second time when they became Catholics.
The answer was no, on condition that the baptism was in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. For it is through that baptism that one becomes a Christian. This is often referred to as the seal of baptism, indelible and permanent.
It is no wonder that the church looks upon this sacrament as foundational and the first of the sacraments received, required before all of the other sacraments. Just as Jesus at the river Jordan was, so to speak, introduced and prepared for his public ministry, so too we are introduced into the Church by our baptism and receive our share in the priesthood of Christ.
The voice from heaven said: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” In the rite of baptism, we are clothed in a white garment as a sign of our Christian dignity, and are encouraged to live accordingly.
Mary came from heaven, where she lives in the light of God, who is “clothed with majesty and glory, robed in light as with a cloak,” as we read in the Psalm. Upon the physical heights of a mountain, she wept over the spiritual depths to which her people had fallen. The baptismal garment of her people was stained, and the Christian seal was barely recognizable.
Like the prophet, she spoke tenderly. In her own words she called on us to prepare or, better yet, repair the way of the Lord, in our heart and in our way of life.
In the second reading, St. Paul gives a wonderful description of baptism when he writes that God “saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he richly poured out on us through Jesus Christ our savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life.”
At the heart of our La Salette message and ministry of reconciliation is hope. To nourish it, let us never forget or neglect the gift we received in our baptism.
Fr. René Butler, M.S. and Wayne Vanasse