The Dimanche after Epiphany we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord. In what way does this feast to nourish our faith and our hope as Christians?
Bible readings Isaiah 42: 1–4, 6–7 Psalm 29: 1–4, 9–10 Acts 10: 34–38 Matthew 3: 13–17
Jesus’s baptism, turning things upside down
Seeing Jesus come before him and ask to be baptised is something that took John the Baptist by surprise. In fact, John did the baptism of repentance, inviting people to turn from their sinful ways in preparation for the coming of the Messiah. That’s why people from different cross-sections of society like tax collectors and soldiers, to mention but just some, came to ask John what they should do to repent. It means it’s the baptism for those in need of changing from sinful ways. But does Jesus need repentance? If this is about preparing for the coming of the Messiah, what does his baptism serve?
Being parent to one’s children
Posing the question as to why Jesus would put himself on the queue of those seeking to be baptised, makes me think of the demands of being parent. To parent one’s children, especially little ones, is quite demanding. It takes much more than providing material needs and employing a babysitter. Given the necessity for direct involvement of parents in this demanding task of grooming their children, it’s recommended that couples, if possible, have children while they are still in their youthful age.
A parent of little children is challenged to rediscover infancy: use easy and simple words, running around and to take interest in what little ones like, children’s games for example. That can be tiring, you need to be fit. The point is: parents are there to accompany their children in their infancy and in their adolescence, not in order to keep them stuck in their pre-maturity, but to accompany them on the way to responsible adulthood. I discern something of the kind in the son of God who has become human to share our life.
God-man walks down to the baptism of repentance
Though he is sinless, thus, no need for conversion, Jesus, nevertheless, puts himself on the line of sinful humanity to the water of Jordan for baptism. He doesn’t mind being identified among sinners. What’s important, for the one who has come to so that we may have life, and life in abundance; is to walk along with us, to support and encourage us so that we may rediscover our dignity. We find beautiful images of this loving patience in the first reading.
This servant of Yahweh: “a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench”. What does that mean? He patiently walks with the fragile, bruised humanity, propping it till it’s regenerated. For those whose life has lost the flame, he doesn’t give up on them, he fans it with his breath, thereby making smothering fire burst into a flame. Indeed, we see a new spark of life in humanity at the baptism of Jesus.
Renewed humanity at Jesus’ Baptism
At the baptism of Jesus, God-Man, the Spirit descends on him, and God affirms: “This is my son, the Beloved, with whom am well pleased.” In Jesus the entire humanity rediscovers its beauty and dignity. Indeed, what we will see later in his public ministry, like healing the lame and the lepers or forgiving sinners; it’s not about Jesus parading himself as miracle worker. He would be uplifting humanity, bowed down by all sorts of ailing. With the heavens opening, heaven and earth are once again in communication; humanity is once again in the warm embrace of the Father. Humanity hears, together with Jesus, the declaration of love -you are my beloved son!
Missionaries of reconciliation
Then, as our mission, not only are we called to walk alongside others in their fragility, but we are also inspired, by the opening of heavens, to establish relationship where communion has been ruptured. We appreciate, then, that in his baptise of repentance, Jesus is not ashamed of being counted as one among us. Of course, he’s not there to pat our backs to continue our sinfulness; he aims at leading us where we belong: to the dignity of who we are in God: God’s beloved children. Then, with Jesus, we can dare to raise our hands, and call God: “Our Father”, thanks to the door that Jesus opens for us through his baptism.
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