The Divine Physician's Mercy in the Sacraments
January 13th Readings Reflection: Saturday of the First Week in Ordinary Time
Traditionally, today is the Commemoration of the Baptism of Our Lord. Although the feast was celebrated this past Monday in the new liturgical calendar, today’s Gospel can be read in light of the traditional feast. The Gospel passage for today recounts Christ’s calling St. Matthew to be His disciple. The Pharisees complained to Jesus’ disciples that Christ ate with tax collectors and sinners. Jesus replied to them, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”
Baptism is the sacrament by which we receive the life of God’s grace in our souls, becoming children of God and heirs of the Kingdom of Heaven. When St. John the Baptist baptized Jesus in the Jordan River, a voice was heard from Heaven, saying, “Thou art [M]y beloved Son; in [T]hee I am well pleased” (Mk 1:11 DRB). This event demonstrates the spiritual reality of Baptism for each of us. When we are baptized, we become sons and daughters of God. In the Gospels, the Holy Spirit descended upon Christ in the form of a dove; at our Baptisms, the Holy Spirit invisibly descends upon us, filling our souls with sanctifying grace and making us heirs of Heaven.
Through the Sacrament of Baptism, Christ the Divine Physician heals our souls from the spiritual death of Original Sin. However, He does not stop extending His mercy to us after Baptism; through the Sacrament of Confession, He continues to offer us His mercy so that we may receive forgiveness for the sins that we commit after Baptism. While Our Lord established the Sacrament of Baptism at His own Baptism in the Jordan River, He established the Sacrament of Confession after His Resurrection, when He told His Apostles, “Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained” (Jn 20:23).
I know a holy priest who encourages the faithful to receive the Sacrament of Confession as often as possible, explaining that since Jesus offers us such immense graces through the Sacrament, we should try to receive those graces as often as possible. In these weeks after the Epiphany, before we begin preparing for Lent, the Church gives us these Gospel readings to remind us of the importance of receiving the Sacraments. Without the Sacrament of Baptism, we remain spiritually dead in Original Sin. Without the Sacrament of Confession, we remain spiritually sick, or even spiritually dead if we have had the misfortune to commit a mortal sin. May our commemorating Jesus’ Baptism remind us to draw ever closer to Him, the merciful Divine Physician, through the Sacraments of His Catholic Church.