In this interview, the first in a series on these mysteries, Father Santiago Martin, journalist, author, and founder of the Movement of the Franciscans of Mary, meditates on this decisive moment in Jesus' life.
Q: What is recalled and meditated on in the first mystery of light of the rosary?
Father Martin: The baptism of the Lord. It was the beginning of Christ's public life, although some believe that that happened with the miracle at the wedding of Cana. The baptism made it clear that God was with Christ, backing his person and his message. Moreover, the Lord instituted the sacrament of baptism, which for us means redemption and divine filiation.
Q: Did Christ have sins that needed to be forgiven?
Father Martin: The Lord went to receive from John the Baptist a baptism that was, for others, of penance. That baptism did not forgive sins, but served as a rite of purification, as it showed publicly what existed in man's heart: repentance. Christ, however, needed neither to repent nor to be purified. The Baptist himself understood this, and initially he refused to baptize him and asked to be baptized by him.
What Christ was seeking was a symbol of unity with man -- as he had done earlier, when he allowed himself to be tempted in the desert -- at the same time taking advantage of the occasion to institute the sacrament of baptism; the Father would give him the first push into the world, thus beginning his public life in sight of all.
Q: What should baptism mean to us?
Father Martin: Generally, we are baptized as children, which is wonderful, as we are then cleansed of original sin from the beginning, and we are adopted children of God and members of the Church. This is what baptism means. It is the door that introduces us to the community of the children of God and enables us to accede to the other sacraments. Moreover, it cleanses us of original sin and personal sins that we might have.
Q: Can baptism be repeated?
Father Martin: Baptism is a sacrament that imprints "character," in other words, it cannot be repeated. Even those who leave the Church, continue to be baptized Catholics, just as one continues to be a child of one's father and mother, even if one doesn't want to have anything more to do with them.
What we can do is to reiterate again and again our intention to be in the Church, to be children of God, and to be saints. For example, when we enter a church and bless ourselves with holy water, we are renewing spiritually our baptismal promises and doing a gesture which means that we ask for forgiveness for our sins and God's blessing to continue to be faithful Catholics.