An incident is told about St Katherine of Alexandria.
Katherine was a noble and learned young woman in this cultural hub of the ancient world of the 4th century. She had attained a lot of popularity in the town of Alexandria.
>> She was a Christian.
This was the time of the persecution of Christians by Emperor Maxentius.
Christians were given only two options:
>> Worshipping the emperor (which would violate the First Commandment)…
… or being put to death
In this context, the Governor of Alexandria also came up with another plan to humiliate and discourage the Christians.
He invited the famous Katherine to debate a group of fifteen (some say 50) of the best pagan philosophers and orators…
… Hoping that this dispute would refute all her pro-Christian arguments and thus morally discourage other Christians as well!
Katherine accepted the challenge.
>> They gathered in the governor’s palace and the discussion began.
But the plan backfired.
Instead of Katherine being converted, several members of the panel (some sources say all members) were actually converted!
>> They asked for baptism immediately, so as to receive God’s grace into their souls.
But the governor was furious and condemned them all to immediate death.
To that, Katherine with concern and care assured all the new-converts that since they so sincerely desired to receive the sacrament…
… their own blood would take the place of water, and their own martyrdoms would take the place of baptism.
Those men were willing to give up everything else, only in order to receive the friendship and grace and Jesus Christ.
That’s the power of God’s Love!
>> And that’s the Power of Witnessing to God’s Love!
The fire of God’s Love that was kindled in St Katherine of Alexandria, at Baptism…
… continued to blaze in her, setting many other souls on fire for love of God!
Does the Fire of Love, that had been kindled in us, at our Baptism…
… continue to blaze powerfully in us?
>> Or has the fire been diminished and lessened?
Today, Holy Mother the Church celebrates the Feast of the Baptism of Jesus…
… and with an invitation: To “fan into flames” ( 2 Tim 1:6) the fire of God’s Love that has been kindled in us, at our Baptism!
The liturgical season of Christmas, celebrating the self-revelation of God through Jesus, comes to an end with the feast of the Baptism of Our Lord.
This incident of the Baptism of Jesus is greatly significant and important….
>> It is one of the few passages that appears in all the four Gospels.
>> It was the first public revelation of the Three Persons of the Trinity
>> It was the first official declaration of Jesus as the Son of God to the world.
For Jesus, it was…
… a moment of identification with us sinners.
… a moment of decision to begin His public ministry.
…a moment of approval when His Father called Him as His “beloved Son”.
Each one us, as Christians have been baptized in the Lord!
What does Baptism mean to us?
>> What has Baptism meant to us?
Baptism is a time when we call ourselves to have “put on” Christ…
… a time of conversion…from the old to the new!
For a moment, let’s borrow the idea of how the Jewish conversion would be effected…
… so that we could have a better and a deeper understanding of our Christian Baptism
For a Gentile man to become a full-fledged Jew there was a basic three-step process:
1. The first was to offer a sacrifice
A heifer or a pair of turtledoves was brought to the priest and given as a burnt offering to God. This meant some expense involved.
It required hardship, forfeiting and sacrifice oneself to become a new person!
2. The second was circumcision – the cutting away of a piece of flesh from a man’s body.
For a Jewish boy, this was done when he was 8 days old, thus the pain wasn’t remembered.
>> But an adult male, who wanted to become a Jewish proselyte, had to undergo this procedure, regardless of his age.
It required deep pain, immense agony and even shedding of blood to become a new person!
3. The third was baptism.
The person stripped off all of his clothes.
>> He then went into the water naked before the Rabbis…
… dipped himself under water making sure to fully immerse his entire body!
It required a lot of humility and self-sacrifice to become a new person!
Christian Baptism may not have these external signs and actions as that of the Jews.
>> But the internal aspects are much more strongly present…
… and even more valid!
To be a Baptized Person in Jesus – a passage from the Old to the New, requires….
1. Sacrifice of oneself
…. Willingness to sacrifice one’s life for the Lord, in the form of money, talents, time, energy etc…
>> He who wishes to follow me, must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me (Mt 16:24)
2. Undergoing pain and suffering
… Openness to share the agony and grief of life through various life situations and being patient and faithful in all trials …
>> “The Lord your God will circumcise your heart… to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul…” (Dt 30: 6)
3. Embracing a life of humility and dependence on God
… Readiness to overcome our pride, our selfish desires and interests and allow God’s grace and mercy to flow through us…
>> “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time” (1Pet 5:6)
Most of us have been Baptized when we were too little…
We were not aware….
>> But those who loved us and cared for us, were aware.
Today very often, the Ceremony of Baptism gets reduced to a mere ritual with only celebrations and get-togethers
>> We need to instead, revive the primary aspect of Baptism: As a life-transforming process, with its intrinsic elements of pain and sacrifices!
Baptism was a beginning… an initiation…into a life of grace…
… a journey with the Lord!
The Spirit of the Lord is within us…
And the call from Deep within us is strong:
“Rise up from slumber, if you are sleeping…
As a Baptized Christian, you have a very noble vocation and an immense responsibility…
Christian Life is no joke
… it does not tolerate passivity
… it does not allow lethargy!
Mother Church is waiting to embrace you in deep love with Her Sacraments…
>> Mother Mary and all the Saints and Angels are encouraging you to become a Saint…
Yes, You are a Baptized Child of God
… Consecrated to the Lord
… Holy to Him!
>> Be Faithful…
>> Be Enthusiastic…
>> Be Proud… to be a Christian”
Yes, the fire of God’s Love that has been kindled in us at Baptism…
… ought to continue to blaze in us, setting many other souls on fire for love of God!
Let us re-kindle the fire and love of being a Christian….
>> Let’s renew our Baptismal vows!
>> Let’s live our Baptism!
Happy Feast to all of us, baptized with our Dearest Lord!
God Bless! Live Jesus!
Quotable-quote-a-day-with-St Francis de Sales (SFS) – “When the daughter of a strange land was about to espouse an Israelite, the law commanded her to put off the garment of her captivity, to pare her nails, and to shave her head;
>> Even so the soul which aims at the dignity of becoming the spouse of Christ, must put off the old man, and put on the new man, forsaking sin…
… moreover, it must pare and shave away every impediment which can hinder the Love of God!”