Deacons are frequently asked what are some of the things we can do. Liturgically speaking, the big three are baptisms and non-Mass weddings and funerals. My first baptism as a deacon is coming up in about a month, and it is starting to weigh on my thoughts. Mind you, I have assisted priests and deacons at many baptisms over the years as an acolyte during formation: fetching towels, handing them the correct oils, lighting candles, and so forth. I have even had some hands-on experience during a class at the Seminary. But being the presider, rather than assisting the presider, or pouring water over an infant, rather than a doll, is, I suspect, going to be very different on so many levels. Rest assured, I’ll prepare as much as possible, rehearsing at home repeatedly the night before. Even so, I will turn to the Holy Spirit to steady the nerves come the big day.
As nerve-wracking as this first baptism might seem to me, I can only imagine what John the Baptist was thinking when Jesus came to him to be baptized! Don’t forget, John knew who Jesus was. The Baptist had been telling anyone who would listen to him that one greater than he was to come, so great that he, John, was unworthy to loosen his sandal straps. After all, that was John’s mission from conception, to announce the coming of the Messiah! That, in and of itself, is an awesome responsibility. But now Jesus presents himself to be baptized. To put that in perspective, think how you might feel if the Pope personally asked you to pray for him?
If knowledge of Jesus weren’t enough to leave John the Baptist in awe, certainly what happened afterwards would. No sooner does Jesus rise from the water than the heavens open, a dove settles on him, and God, yes GOD, is heard saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
My first baptism will be nothing like this, with one exception. While not visible in the form of a dove, the same Holy Spirit that descended upon Jesus will leave an indelible mark on the infant being baptized, just as he has on all of us who are baptized. This child will become an adopted son of God with the stain of original sin washed away. And as I imagine John the Baptist standing in awe of what he witnessed, humbled that the Lord worked through him in that way, so too will I, his humble servant, stand in awe at the power of the Holy Spirit and the waters of baptism.
In the Peace of Christ,