The Baptism of the Lord
The Ministry of the Infant Christ
In today’s second reading Peter says, “I am beginning to see….”. His words can apply to something so basic as baptism. Always we can see more.
The words of a child that I read recently make me think of baptism. A little girl eight years old is suffering from renal failure. Her second kidney transplant is failing. She is sitting next to another little girl who was just admitted to the hospital. This child of five is suffering renal failure also. With her arm around the shoulder of the crying little girl, she says to her, ‘Now don’t you worry. I have been through all this and will help you get through it.’
Today’s feast is part of the Christmas celebration; it connects us to the baby in the manger. Matthew and Luke show us the shadow of the Cross falling over Bethlehem. At baptism, the youngest of us when touched with the perfumed oil of chrism, which symbolizes the gift of the Holy Spirit, is given a commission. Be another Christ; love as Christ loves. This feast adds to Christmas a dimension of ministry. The child who knew suffering in the hospital ministers the compassion of Christ to another child. How like the words of Our Lord to us adults, ‘I’ve been through it and will help you get through it’. Can this feast enable us to see a compassionate Christ child ministering in some way from the very beginning?
In the words spoken by the little girl we see The Passion of the Infant Christ being played out; the step from the crib to the cross. We who experience at Christmas the divine exchange, hear Christ speak in the words of the child, ’Now don’t you worry, I have been through it all.’ These are the words of the victory of the cross.
At baptism, the smallest is given the gift of the Holy Spirit. Words struggle to explain our humble understanding of how God’s love embraces us, but how fortunate the child who can grow up with those humble words. This mystery of God that we best describe as a gift, is unwrapped for them when we answer the questions and explore the experiences that speak of a loving God at work as they grow. We hear in the gospels that children have the key to the Kingdom of God, and what is revealed to them is hidden from the learned and the clever. How we profit from their ministry!
In this divine exchange, the birth of God in our midst, we can imagine the Passion of the Infant Christ ministering through children. There is also the victory of Christ as when suffering they proclaim hope and love in a world they have not yet explored. “Now don’t you worry. I have been through all this and will help you get through it.”
Fr. William Murphy, CP is the pastor of Immaculate Conception parish in Jamaica, New York.