Prologue: We have just listened to the story of the Lord’s Baptism where Jesus is revealed by God, as God’s Son. This feast is linked to the Epiphany where the Christ child is revealed as God’s light bearer for all peoples and also with the miracle at Cana where Jesus reveals His own glory. All three events are epiphanies or manifestations of Christ.
Today’s feast day reflection: This feast is a great Epiphany of God. God is spelling it out for us, “this is my Son, the Beloved.” ‘Look, see and hear this is someone special Who is entrusted My blessing, and has favour in My eyes.’ Yet, according to the prophet Isaiah He is to be our ‘servant’ and the one to set others free.
Although this Epiphany is of the One of great power and favour it’s puzzling that Our Lord was to be the one to serve and become least of all, and ultimately hang dying on the Cross. This confounds us as we associate being special with being served by others. We associate favour with being shown favours.
Similarly the encounter with God’s Beloved was perplexing for John. Figuring Jesus was exalted by God he figured himself as not being worthy to undo his sandal strap, let alone Baptise Him. So John questioned Jesus’ need of Baptism from him, protesting his need of Baptism from the Lord. What was Jesus’ reply? “It is fitting,” so John gave in.
Isn’t that curious? Why was it fitting? The answer of the Lord’s need of Baptism isn’t in the spectacle of the descent of the Spirit, nor the voice from heaven “this is my Son, the Beloved.” Jesus didn’t need this to happen.
Yes, it was important and necessary, but for his disciples and all who would follow him through the centuries. ‘We’ needed to know He was the chosen Messiah so ‘we’ could follow after Him and His example.
The importance of Jesus’ Baptism — and why it was fitting — was not because of the Epiphany that revealed Jesus’ solidarity between Him and God. Rather, it revealed the Son of God’s willing solidarity between Him who is God, and us human beings. Through Baptism God’s divine Son was immersed fully into the human condition, including that of sin and its effects.
Having established this solidarity, Jesus was able to reinstate humanities broken relationship with God. He, the true servant of God, immersed Himself in the human condition so He could atone for human sin.
The Lords’ Baptism is a sign given that we recognise the One to Whom we must follow in faith. But, above all, it was a sign of Jesus’ love, and His complete dedication of His life to the human state. The eternal Lord Who was with God in the beginning, consented to spend the rest of His eternity a human being.
This feast also then, speaks to the dignity of human nature; of what it is to be born a male or female, after the image of God. If you are ever feeling down and sorry for yourself think of this dignity and the destiny to which we are called because of Jesus’ willingness to give Himself completely to us on the day of his Baptism.