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WHAT THE BAPTISM OF JESUS MEANS TO US

Father Francis's picture
First Week of Ordinary Time

Luke 3:15-16, 21-22

Along with Mary and Joseph, I have always found Jesus’ behaviour at the age of 12 very puzzling. Being the Son of God He could do no wrong and He must have been a very obedient, thoughtful and loving Child. Surely He must have known that His three day stay in Jerusalem, without His parents’ knowledge, would cause them much heartache? Why then did He worry His parents and not tell them that He wanted to stay in Jerusalem and talk to the doctors of the temple?

The reply He gave His mother when she asked Him indicates that He was beginning to understand His mission in life. “Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” His Father needed Him to do His work and His life had been mapped out for Him. For the next 18 years He was to lead a hidden life in the carpenter's shop at Nazareth as He prepared for the time when, at the age of 30, He would embark on that work.

Before He launched His public ministry He decided to be baptised. We never hear mention about the cousin relationship of Jesus and John the Baptist whose mother, Elizabeth, recognised Mary as “the mother of my Lord” at the Visitation. Surely she would have taught her son something of who his cousin Jesus was?

Our Gospel today begins by saying that there was an expectancy growing among the people that perhaps John might be the Messiah. From what his mother would have told him, I think he knew that Jesus was the Messiah. He told his followers, “I baptise you with water, but Someone is coming, who is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to undo the strap of His sandals; He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

Why should Jesus should seek baptism, for He was sinless? The only reasons I can think of are that He wanted to show solidarity with the people who came to John, and to tell us how important it is for us to be baptised. It seems so strange to imagine Jesus, the Son of God, in the queue by the river Jordan. John’s baptism was to be a sign of people showing sorrow for their sins and a preparation for the coming Messiah who was imminent. Baptism, as instituted by Jesus, was a true washing away of original sin and making people members of the Christian Church.

We can see how seriously Jesus took John’s baptism for we are told that immediately afterwards He was at prayer. It was then that Heaven opened and the Holy Spirit descended on Him in bodily shape like a dove. A voice came from Heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; My favour rests on You.” I am sure John would have heard these words and it would have confirmed all that his mother had taught him. Here was the long awaited Messiah, standing before him, and from now on John could tell his own disciples to leave him and follow Jesus, his work done. In fact, pointing to Jesus, he told them at the river Jordan, “Look there is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. This is the one I spoke of when I said, a Man is coming after me who ranks before me because He existed before me.”

Holy Spirit, help us to understand the significance of our own baptism, especially today, and to thank You for giving us the precious gift of faith. Help us to live up to this high calling and encourage us to pray that You will give this wonderful gift to many others.

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