John Baptizes Jesus

Meister Eckhart stated:  “If thanksgiving were the only prayer that came from our heart, it indeed would be sufficient.”  Why should we thank God?  For the simple reason that God is the essence of Goodness, Beauty, Generosity.  What has God given to us? Absolutely everything… everything!  Except one thing: our own personal sins!  These, sad to say, we have chosen for ourselves!

Among the first on the list to render abundant thanksgiving to God should be the gift of God Himself, supernatural life that was bestowed on us in the very moment of our Baptism. “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  It all started in that moment--- our 2nd birth, our supernatural birth which Jesus was explaining to Nicodemus: “Unless a man be born of water and the Holy Spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (Jn. 3)

Upon celebrating the Baptism of Jesus, as the Christmas Season comes to an end, we should call to mind our own Baptism and lift up grateful hearts to the God of all Gifts and render abundant thanksgiving.

Following is a list of supernatural graces that rain down from heaven in the exact moment of Baptism. Why not utilize this scheme in the form of a Litany and thank the Lord for these graces and at the same time beg for the grace to be responsible to utilize to the maximum these graces and privileges, never forgetting that with the gift there is always a corresponding responsibility to respond by using the gift!

Biblical readings on  Baptism: 1)Mt. 3:1-17, The Preaching of John the Baptist and Jesus’ Baptism; 2)Jn. 3:1-21, Nicodemus and the necessity of Baptism; 3) Mt. 28:16-20, the universal call to Baptism.

Adam and Eve Commit Original Sin
1.    ORIGINAL SIN WASHED CLEAN.   In the moment of Baptism, the Original Stain, called Original sin is washed clean from our soul. The beautiful expression of “Baptismal innocence” is true!  The poet John Milton wrote Paradise lost and Paradise regained. In a certain sense Baptism is Paradise regained in the soul.

2.     SON/DAUGHTER OF GOD. Baptism transforms our relationships. Born naturally we are created in the image and likeness of God, However, not until Baptism do we truly become Sons and daughters of God. What an extraordinary dignity—Sons of the Eternal, Infinite, All-powerful God!
Jesus is the Friend who will never fail us
3.    BROTHERS/SISTERS TO JESUS CHRIST.  If anyone ever asks you if you have an elder brother, you should respond in the affirmative, saying, “Yes, JESUS CHRIST!”   Our duty and task in life is to get to know Him better, love Him more ardently and follow Him more closely. (St. Ignatius and fruit to beg for in the Spiritual Exercises)

4.    INTIMATE FRIEND: THE HOLY SPIRIT.  In a society where so many people suffer from loneliness, abandonment, and depression, that should not be our case because we are never alone. Jesus stated this clearly when he said I will not leave you as orphans, but I will send you the Holy Spirit.  The Consoler, Counselor, Paraclete, Interior Master, Sweet Guest of the Soul, “The Gift of Gifts” (CCC)--- all are titles for the Holy Spirit who indeed is your Intimate Friend and desires to be your best Friend.  Jesus said that He would be with us always even until the end of times; God is present with us in the Person of the Holy Spirit.
Lucia's vision of the Trinity 1929
5.     THE BLESSED TRINITY.   There is no separation or divorce in God. Where the Father is there is the Son and where the Son is also is present the Holy Spirit. This being said, the baptized soul has the INDWELLING of the Blessed Trinity. One of the hallmarks of Carmelite Spirituality is the heightened awareness of our soul being the Indwelling of the Blessed Trinity through grace and all starting in the moment of Baptism.  Glory be to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit abiding in my soul starting with Baptism!

6.    FAITH.  With Baptism come the three theological virtues of FAITH, HOPE, AND CHARITY.    Faith is an intellectual virtue by which we believe in God, a God who we do not see with our physical eyes but with the eyes of our soul.  In this year of  faith we should beg for deeper faith in the Biblical words: “Lord, strengthen my faith….”  As well as with the doubting Thomas: “My Lord and my God!!!”
Pope Francis preaches on Faith!
7.    HOPE. Also in Baptism God endows us with the theological virtue of hope.  Hope is related to TRUST in a mysterious but providential and loving God. What is hope?  Hope is a virtue of trust in which I know and believe that despite the many problems, trials and tribulations and sufferings that enter my life, I  know (hope and trust) that God is with me in those dark moments and He will help me through them. Recall the words of the Psalmist: “The Lord is my Shepherd, there is nothing I shall lack….. though I walk through dark valleys I fear no evil because you are with me with your rod and staff….” (Psalm 23, The Good Shepherd).

8.    CHARITY.  Paul states it, “The love of God has been poured into our hearts..”  The greatest of all virtues is that of charity.  It is a supernatural love where we love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength and our neighbor as ourselves for love of God. (Lk. 10.) St. Paul in his sublime hymn on love says that of all the virtues, faith and hope, and others, the greatest of these is love. (I Cor. 13) St. John of the Cross says, “In the twilight of our existence we will be judged on love.”  St. Francis de Sales who wrote a Spiritual masterpiece entitled, “Treatise on Love”, affirmed this with these words: “The measure that we should love God is to love God without measure.”   These three theological virtues that connect and unite us with God are all free/gratuitous gifts richly bestowed upon us in the moment of Baptism! Praise and thank the Lord for His goodness!

9.    JUSTICE.  The moral virtue of Justice also is given. This virtue, according to Aquinas related to religion, teaches us to give each one his due, what he really deserves. Teaching children we say clearly, “Learn to be fair!”

10.TEMPERANCE. Another one of the moral/cardinal virtues that comes in the moment of Baptism teaches us the proper, ordered moderate use of material things related to the proper ordering and use of the body. Therefore, temperance aids us in ordered habits of eating, exercising properly, forming well-ordered sleeping habits, and the dominion of the imperious and demanding sexual urges and appetites. Either we dominate these tendencies through the virtue of Temperance and experience the true liberty of the sons and daughters of God or they dominate us and we become slaves to our passions!

11.PRUDENCE.  Another one of the moral/cardinal virtues, prudence, is proper reasoning leading to correct action.  The Gift of the Holy Spirit, Counsel, perfects Prudence.  According to the angelic Doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas, to make a prudential act three steps are necessary: 1.) Deliberation (to ponder seriously and think the topic through; 2.)Decision. After serious deliberation, that must lead to action. If not we become perpetual procrastinators and never get anything done!        3.)Execution--- this means that after the decision has been made, then through the “Imperation of the will” (Aquinas) the firm determination of the will, the action is carried out. How important it is to know to reason properly and make correct decisions. A wrong decision could be catastrophic!  Prudence helps us in important decision-making!

12. FORTITUDE.  The last of the moral virtue is that of “Fortitude”. This is the virtue of the martyrs of all times and places. The Holy Spirit breathes His strong breath upon us and gives us the grace to be patient in trials, to stand up for the truth, to denounce errors, to accept willingly contradictions and persecutions and to be willing to shed one’s blood and even die as a martyr--- all of this is possible through FORTITUDE!
13.THE Seven  GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT…  WISDOM, KNOWLEDGE, COUNSEL, UNDERSTANDING, FORTITUDE, PIETY, AND FEAR OF THE LORD…   All of these seven gifts are given not in the moment of Confirmation but at the very moment of Baptism. Like little seeds planted in the Garden these Gifts must be cultivated constantly so that they become operative. Once cultivated and operative they are extraordinary helps on the Highway to holiness!  The Fathers of the Church compare our soul to a SAILBOAT with seven sails and the sailor/captain must know the WIND.  The Boat is our soul, the stormy waters the world that surround us, the 7 sails are the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit and the wind is the Breath of the Holy Spirit, the Captain of the soul is you and me. The shore is our destiny: HEAVEN! At Baptism we are blessed with these seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Praise and thanks be to God forever!
At Baptism the family if the church is enriched
14.NEW FAMILY MEMBER: THE CHURCH, THE MYSTIICAL BODY OF CHRIST. With Baptism, we become incorporated in a new Family, the Church. We become family members of 1.3 billion Catholics throughout the world, the numerous saints in heaven, not to mention the souls in Purgatory--- All in the family!

15.  ACTUAL GRACES.   How good God is! Still more graces and gifts does He shower upon us!  Once baptized, we have a right to receiving “Actual graces”. These are divine impulses and inspirations that work marvels on both our mind and heart. Heavenly lights fill our mind to do good and promote God’s glory; in our will, God sends us peace and joy and enthusiasm in His service. Even when tempted, grace helps us to resist the evil and carry out the good.
The seven Sacraments

16. RIGHT TO RECEIVE THE OTHER SACRAMENTS.   The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that the Sacrament of Baptism is the “door” of the church--- meaning the way by which we enter the life of the Church. Once Baptism is received that opens up the door to reception of the other sacraments. Of course the greatest of Sacraments is the most Holy Eucharist, the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus.   According to Aquinas all the sacraments point to and converge in the Eucharist!

17.EXORCISM.   The constant state of man on earth is mortal warfare. The three principal enemies to our salvation are the devil, the flesh and the world. In the context of the Sacrament of Baptism the minister carries out the Rite of Exorcism. It is a “Minor Exorcism” (not a Major Exorcism). Meaning?  The enemy’s first defeat is the Sacrament of Baptism. The Anointing with the Oil of the Catechumens reminds us of the insidious intrigues of the enemy. However, God, His angels and saints and Mary are much more powerful! 
Various types of Paschal Candles
18. PASCHAL CANDLE.   Once Baptism is administered Parents and the Godparents are called to imitate the Candle that they lighted having taken the light form the Paschal Candle; the Paschal Candle symbolizes the Risen Jesus. The Lord is truly risen, Alleluia!   The Baptized person has the support of the good example and prayers of the Godparents. (This is the ideal!) Even more so, the child has the prayers, sacrifices, good example and teaching of the parents, who indeed are called to be brilliant lights of holiness and good examples before the eyes of the child. We tend to imitate what we see!
Heaven-- our true and permanent Home!
19.  HEAVEN.  Through Baptism we have a right to inherit eternal life!  What could be more consoling to know that one day we will be with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, the angels and saints and for all eternity and eternal bliss. It all starts with that little seed planted in the soul in the moment of Baptism!

20.  Mary.   If God is our Father, and Jesus our elder brother and the Holy Spirit our deep and intimate Friend, that means that Mary has a special place for us once baptized. She is the Daughter of the Father, Mother of the Son, and Spouse of the Holy Spirit. That means that Mary truly becomes our Spiritual Mother!

Mary is the Queen!