Feast of the Baptism of the Lord
Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized. (Mt 3:13)
The Baptism of the Lord marks the close of the Christmas season. This Feast truly offers us an opportunity to reflect upon the meaning of Jesus’ Baptism and ours.
We have just heard from the Gospel of Matthew the account of the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan. It has been said: the whole mystery of Christ in the world can be summed up in this term, “baptism”, which in Greek means “immersion”. The eternal Son shares the fullness of life with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Now He is “immersed” in our reality. Saint Paul said : “God sending his own Son in the likeness of our sinful flesh” (Rm 8:3).
Matthew recounts that when Jesus came from the waters, the Holy Spirit descended upon him in the form of a dove, while the Father’s voice from Heaven proclaimed him “my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased” (Mt 3: 17). Jesus then fulfilled what Isaiah mentioned in our first reading: “my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased . . . He shall bring for justice to the nations” (Is 42:1). Our Lord did this with humility and gentleness: “He will not cry out, nor shout, nor make his voice heard in the street. 3A bruised reed* he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench. He will faithfully bring forth justice” (Is 42:2-3).
Humbly and gently is the way Christ immersed into our world and transformed us. Our second reading, from the Acts of the Apostles, points out that St. Peter could not forget the effectiveness of Christ’s baptism or immersion into our world: “Beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power. He went about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil, for God was with him” (Acts 10: 37-38). Jesus baptism summarizes how the Son of God immersed into our world. What about us at our baptism?
At the moment of our Baptism, whether in infancy or later in life, we became adopted sons and daughters of God, members of his holy, Catholic Church. Though we may not have realized it, the moment of our Baptism is also the moment we become Christian stewards or disciples of Jesus Christ, tasked with the work of following in his footsteps day by day and sharing the Gospel message with all those around us. In fact, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:
“Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit (vitae spiritualis ianua), and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons and daughters of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission: Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water in the word” (CCC no. 1213).
Whenever we cross a door, we enter into a new reality. So, our baptism is our immersion into the divine life, the life of God. No wonder the Church encourages parents to baptize their children early: simply why not immerse them into the life of the Blessed Trinity at the dawn of their life on earth?
In short, the baptism of the Lord helps us to remember that Jesus’ baptism is his immersion into our life so that our baptism becomes our plunging into the life of God. The Son of God waited in line with sinners seeking baptism, what humility and what willingness to unite himself to us! We can do no less as we live out our daily lives as his disciples. When we do strive with all our might to live out our baptismal call to Christian stewardship, we, too, are God’s “beloved” sons and daughters “with whom” God “is well-pleased.” (Mt 3: 17).