Your Presence is Requested (Baptism of the Lord)

After all the people were baptised, Jesus was baptised. As he was praying, the sky opened up and the Holy Spirit, like a dove descending, came down on him. And along with the Spirit, a voice: “You are my Son, chosen and marked by my love, pride of my life”. (Luke 3: 21 – 22)

Before celebrating his first Baptism, a newly ordained priest took special care to make sure everything was ready: his book of the rite, the oil, the candles, the white stoles. The Baptism seemed to go smoothly – he got all eight of the children’s names right – but as he was getting ready to read the concluding prayer, one of the grandmothers touched his sleeve and whispered gently, “You forgot to pour the water”.

Sacraments have always been communal events. Luke sets the scene of Jesus Baptism by first describing the crowd: “The people were filled with expectation”. Everything we understand about sacraments tells us that it was the presence of the crowd – their energy and anticipation for what was to unfold, the prayers and wonderings held fervently in each heart – that allowed the flow of God’s grace to be made manifest in Jesus.

This is how we can and must enter every sacramental experience: as full, conscious, and active participants, ready to be conduits of the flow of grace that God is continually pouring out. The celebrant leads, but the members of the community are essential, adding their prayers and intentions to the proceedings – and sometimes remembering what the celebrant forgot.