The Baptism of the Lord

Pope Francis baptising a child

Recently we celebrated the great solemnity of Christmas – an event in which the eternal Word became flesh – God Himself became one of us. We enjoyed the presence of the newborn baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. Now only a few days later we quickly move to the public life of Jesus leaving out the years of his growing up. This period of Jesus’ life – about 30 years – is described by all the Evangelists very briefly: “Then he went with Joseph and Mary to Nazareth and obeyed them”.

Today the liturgy leads us by the Jordan River where the baptism of Jesus took place. We know that this unusual and mysterious event was the beginning of the public ministry of the Master of Nazareth. Let us see that – like the whole childhood of Jesus – his baptism as well is mentioned very briefly. The Evangelist Mark described it in this way: “It was at this time that Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptised in the Jordan by John”. Saint Mark didn’t explain why Jesus was baptised by John, but by describing this extraordinary scene on the banks of the Jordan, he did explain something much more important, what the true identity of the Master of Nazareth was. “And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on you”.

Baptism was definitely a turning point in the life of Jesus. Until then he was only a humble and modest woodworker in Nazareth, but from that moment he began his ministry as a zealous preacher of the Kingdom of God who was gaining more and more popularity among the crowds of people. Baptism should also be a turning point in our lives. Through this sacrament – that probably took place many years ago – we have started a new life, we have entered a new community of the faithful, that is the community of the Church. And I think it’s worth remembering that baptism is not only a rite that has happened to us in the past, an event recorded by photos and certificates, but it is above all an extraordinary encounter with Christ that shapes and influences our whole life from the very beginning until the moment of our death, when we enter into eternity.

Perhaps there are many celebrations and jubilees in our lives that we remember and celebrate very solemnly. For example, we celebrate our birthdays, wedding anniversaries. We also remember too sad anniversaries, perhaps the death of our loved ones. But let us ask ourselves today: Do we know the exact date of our baptism? Do we remember the anniversary of our christening? Are we grateful, and do we thank God for our parents, our godparents, catechists and all those who helped us to enter into this wonderful relationship with God himself?

Jesus was baptised by John although he didn’t have to do so, but we know that what happened then on the banks of the Jordan was above all a symbol of his solidarity with every human being, that is with each one of us. Because he is really present among us, and he wants to be with us at every moment and in every event of our life, in our moments of weakness and in our moments of strength, in our moments of happiness and in our moments of sadness. He is with us in our daily efforts to rise from our sins and don’t give up anymore. Jesus receives baptism not because he has committed any evil. No, he didn’t need any repentance because of committed sins, but Jesus stood before John together with many sinful people, so that – through this symbolic and mysterious rite of purification – He would be with them as well as with all us in our reconciliation and return to God.

Maybe this feast of the Lord’s baptism – which we celebrate shortly after Christmas – gives us a great occasion and encourages us to remember the date of our baptism. Maybe it is worth to find old photographs and remind ourselves of the people who were with us on that special day. Maybe we were not baptised in St Edward’s church and today we cannot approach and touch with respect our baptismal font – the baptismal font that witnessed our baptism. But we can all thank God for this special day and this special event in our lives, for our parents, our godparents, the priest or deacon and all who helped us to become children of God.

May this feast of the baptism of the Lord remind us that we too were baptised in the same mission of Jesus Christ himself. Let us remember our vocation as beloved children of God and let us share our faith, recalling with joy the waters of baptism that started our Christian life.

Fr Gregory