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WHAT DOES THE BAPTISM OF JESUS SAY TO US?

Father Francis's picture
Baptism of the Lord

Mark 1:7-11

Why did Jesus, the sinless Son of God, submit Himself to a baptism of repentance? Even John the Baptist was puzzled. I don’t propose to solve the mystery today. Instead I want to consider what the Baptism of Jesus says to you and me – and how it is a testimony to the fact of human sinfulness and our need for repentance. He was well aware of the evil in men and women. Did they not spit upon Him, crown Him with thorns and nail Him to the Cross?

Over a century ago there was an era of optimism about the inherent goodness and inevitable progress of humanity. Science and education seemed to be promising to save the world. But not anymore. We are more aware of the evil in our world and we have to face the sad facts about ourselves. We are now beginning to accept that there is truth in that old doctrine of original sin. Terrorism, corrupt and greedy dictators and politicians, the horrors of modern warfare, the insatiable greed and lust in men and women, to mention only a few examples, indicates the evil that lies in human nature. Yes, without a doubt, there is something fundamentally wrong with us which demands repentance, something from which we desperately need to be saved.

Jesus in His Baptism identified Himself with that dark side of our human nature and carried it with Him all the way to the Cross where, as St. Paul says, “He became sin for us”. Even more importantly, however, He identified us with Himself. His Baptism reveals what human nature can become. No one understood the evil in men and women as did Jesus, yet He strongly believed in what men and women could become. They were human, but He could make them divine. St. Augustine, who was aware of the evil in his own life, wrote “Dig deep enough in any man, and you will find something divine”.

Recall Jesus’ description of the prodigal son that day when he made his great decision to repent. “He came to himself,” says Jesus. That was the moment he was aware that he was made for better things than to make his home with pigs and eat their swill. Jesus told us that story to make us aware of how low we can fall, but there is always the possibility that we can arise above those depths.

Jesus by becoming a man indicates what we men and women can become Him – Christ like – if we are at our best. He saw Simon, an ordinary fisherman by the Sea of Galilee, but He knew what He could make him at his best, Peter the rock on which He would build His Church. Jesus sees you and me, the sinners we are, but He knows that if we let Him He can make us saints who one day will live forever in His Father’s Kingdom.

So the Baptism of Jesus tells us that Jesus identified Himself with the worst in us and that He can transform us sinners into saints.

Lord Jesus let us acknowledge that although we are sinners we realise that there is something deeper and better in all of us, that if we have a deep relationship with You we can become like You.

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