Over the years, I have had many people ask me a very simple question when we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. That question is: "Why was Jesus baptized? If Jesus is sinless and the Son of God made flesh, why does he need to be baptized?"
The reason why Jesus chooses to be baptized is connected with who Jesus is. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. Jesus has become one of us in order to show us the way to salvation and how we are to live in order to be saved. He is baptized, in order to show us that it is through Baptism that we are called to share in the life of the Holy Trinity. Jesus is anointed by the Holy Spirit before he begins His public ministry in order to show us that as we are anointed by the Spirit in the Sacraments of Initiation, we too share in His mission. Just as in Baptism the Father declares Jesus to be His beloved Son, so too through our Baptisms the Father claims us to be His beloved sons and daughters. As Jesus took up His ministry after His Baptism and anointing by the Spirit, so too each one of us is given a mission within the Church through our Baptism and anointing at Confirmation.
There is a very powerful theology and image of the Church which describes the relationship between the events of Christ's life and the call that each of us receives in Baptism and Confirmation. This theology goes back to the Apostle Paul and has the title "The Theology of the Mystical Body of Christ." The beauty of this theology is that it articulates how we today are called to continue Christ's work in the world. One of the best examples of this reality is seen in the two-part work of the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. Written by the Evangelist St. Luke, in the first part, the Gospel of Luke, from which we hear read today, tells how the Father sent Jesus into the world to reveal God's salvation and forgiveness of all people. As we hear in today's Gospel, Jesus was anointed by the Father to take up this mission. In the Acts of the Apostles, after Jesus ascends into Heaven, on Pentecost Sunday, the members of the Church were anointed to continue Christ's work in the world. In the Acts of the Apostles, the Church continues Christ's saving work and spreads His mission throughout time and space, bringing His saving message to all people. Today, as we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, we are reminded that just as Christ had a mission from the Father, so too do each of us through Baptism and Confirmation, as members of the Church—the Body of Christ.
Cardinal Collins has written a pastoral letter that discusses the responsibility that each Christian has for the Church because of the gifts that he or she has received from God. The word that he uses to describe this responsibility is "Stewardship." In this letter, Cardinal Collins reminds all of us that because of the gifts that God has given us, we are all called to use them responsibly and with great gratitude to the one who has given them to us. Stewardship calls all of us to recognize that everything that we have is a gift from God. These gifts are ours to enjoy for as long as we enjoy the gift of life. At the end of our lives, we are all going to be called to return everything that we have to God and to give an account of how we have used our gifts. Proper stewardship means using our gifts of time, talent and treasure in a way that recognizes that everything we have is a gift from God and expresses our gratitude for these gifts.
Authentic stewardship invites all of us to ask ourselves what responsibility we have for the life of our parish church. In many parishes there is a small group of people who does everything and burnout and a larger group that expects everything to be done by other people. I have seen that on occasion here when people ask me if we can have a certain kind of group in the parish—like for seniors, or parents or a social committee. When I tell them that I would love to have such a group and then ask when can they start to lead it, they are boggled that I will not find someone else to lead the group that they want to see started in their parish. The life of this parish depends upon all of us doing our part to share our time, talent and treasure for its vitality.
Cardinal Collins has asked that every parish make the call to stewardship a pastoral priority in the coming years. With the Pastoral Council of the parish, I will be working in the future to explore how our own parish community can take this call more seriously. In the bulletin this weekend, the Pastoral Council has placed a survey asking you what you would like our parish to do more of and what you would like us to do less of in the coming years. As you fill out this survey, I would simply ask you to bear in mind one question: If you want to see some activity taking place in our parish, what role are you willing to play in doing it. Each one of us is a member of the Church and parish. We are all responsible for playing our role in what we hope it will become. In the bulletin this weekend, I have also placed a portion of Cardinal Collins' letter on Stewardship. It is entitled: "Reasons to Become Involved in Stewardship." Please give it a read. Full copies of the Cardinal's pastoral letter on Stewardship are available at the back of the church.
Jesus is baptized and anointed by the Spirit for only one reason: to show us how we are to live. As members of the Body of Christ, the Church, we all have a mission because of our Baptisms and because we have been anointed by the Spirit and acknowledged by the Father as His beloved children. The word that best describes the responsibility that is given to each of us as gifted members of the Church is "Stewardship." Let us pray, that in the coming months and years, we may each embrace the spirit of stewardship that will allow us to bring vitality to our community as we share the gifts of time, talent and treasure that God has given to us to use during our lives.
Fr. Michael McGourty is the Pastor of St. Peter's Parish in Toronto. This message was shared in his homily on the Solemnity of the Baptism of the Lord.