Today’s feast of the Baptism of Jesus ends the Christmas season in the church liturgical calendar. I suspect that the vast majority of you have long ago taken down Christmas decorations. If you have waited until now to take them down, good for you! Some people leave their Christmas decorations up until February 2, which is the feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the temple. Nevertheless, back to today’s feast.
Did you ever wonder why Jesus was baptized? He was sinless, so why did he submit to baptism? Matthew tells us in the gospel today that Jesus requested John to baptize him. First, unlike the baptism we received, John’s baptism was a Jewish ritual to prepare for the end time, which John said was coming quickly. In addition to changing one’s life in a positive way, this kind of baptism was also an entry rite for those who wanted to follow the teaching of John the Baptist. Jesus was portrayed as being attracted to John the Baptist and his message. Matthew makes it clear that the situation is awkward, which both Jesus and John recognize. But as soon as Jesus emerges from the waters of baptism, the real meaning of the event becomes clear. His identity as God’s beloved Son is confirmed by the Holy Spirit and proclaimed by the voice of God, declaring that Jesus is God’s beloved Son. In a real way, Jesus’ baptism can be seen as inaugurating Jesus into a ministry that will begin immediately. This confirmation of Jesus’ divine ministry fulfills the Old Testament prophet’s proclamations. The next step for Jesus will be his confrontation with the devil in the wilderness. There, he will be challenged to prove his identity.
While Christian baptism we have received frees us from original sin, it does much more than that! Quoting from the baptismal ritual book: “Baptism is, above all, the sacrament of that faith by which men and women, enlightened by the Spirit’s grace, respond to the gospel of Christ….Further, baptism is the sacrament by which men and women are incorporated into the Church, built into a house where God lives, in the Spirit, into a holy nation and a royal priesthood.” In other words, our baptism is our entry rite for those who want to follow Jesus and his teachings. And, as Jesus commissioned his apostles to “Go make disciples of all nations…” at our baptism we are commissioned to do the same.
The vast majority of us were baptized as infants and likely do not realize that making disciples of Jesus isn’t just the calling of priests and religious. ALL who are baptized Christian are supposed to be making disciples! The feast of The Baptism of Jesus is a wake up call for all of us to be about doing what we are commissioned to do!