Today we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which commemorates the day that Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan. The scriptures tell us that the baptism of John was a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. This begs a question: If Jesus is the Son of God, and is sinless, why was he baptized by John?
There are several different answers to this question. First, Jesus was baptized to show that he identified with sinners. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI writes in Jesus of Nazareth that “Jesus’ baptism is an expression of His fundamental submission to the will of the Father and His complete identification with sinners. By submersion in the waters of the Jordan, Jesus is publicly seen as one in need of repentance and forgiveness himself, although He has no need of it in actuality. Jesus is already embracing the enormous weight of humanity’s sinfulness, just as He will do again in a definitive and final way on the cross. The mysterious events at the Jordan River already foreshadow the saving acts of Christ’s death and resurrection.“
The Baptism of Jesus is also an epiphany moment. Jesus is revealed to be the Son of God, and we are also given the first revelation of the Holy Trinity in Sacred Scripture. The Son receives baptism from John, the Spirit descends upon him, and the Father speaks from the heavens, declaring that Jesus is his son, with whom he is well pleased.
Jesus’ Baptism is a reminder to us of the importance of our own baptism, through which we receive forgiveness of sins, and new life in Christ. Through baptism, we are also called to share in the Church’s mission to make disciples of all nations. Bishop Fabbro has continually reminded us of this call, by telling us that we are to be “a mission-oriented church that forms disciples of Jesus Christ.” As we recall our own baptism this weekend, I invite you to spend some time in prayer, asking God to show you how he is calling you to participate in the mission of the Church, and to reach out to those who are in need, or who long to hear the Good News proclaimed to them.
Sincerely in Christ,
Fr. Steven Huber, CSB