The Christmas season, celebrating the Self-revelation of God through Jesus, comes to an end with the feast of the Baptism of Our Lord. Christmas is the feast of God’s Self-revelation to the Jews, and Epiphany celebrates God’s Self-revelation to the Gentiles. At His Baptism in the Jordan, Christ reveals Himself to repentant sinners. The Baptism of the Lord Jesus is the great event celebrated by the Eastern churches on the feast of Epiphany because it is the occasion of the first public revelation of all the Three Persons in the Holy Trinity, and the official revelation of Jesus as the Son of God to the world by God the Father. It is also an event described by all four Gospels, and it marks the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. The liturgical season of Christmas concludes this Sunday with the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord.
Why did Jesus, the sinless Son of God, receive the “baptism of repentance” meant for sinners? Jesus’ baptism by John was the acceptance and the beginning of Jesus’ Messianic mission as God’s Suffering Servant. Jesus accepted being numbered among sinners, willingly submitting entirely to the Father’s will. Out of love, Jesus consented to the “baptism” of death for the remission of our sins. Many Fathers of the Church explain that Jesus received John’s baptism to be identified with the Chosen People, who, because of John’s preaching, for the first time in Jewish history became aware of their sins and of their need for repentance. The Jews had the traditional belief that only the Gentiles who embraced Jewish religion needed the baptism of repentance, for, as God’s chosen people, the Jewish race was holy. Jesus might have been waiting for this most opportune moment to begin public ministry. The Fathers of the Church point out that the words which the Voice of the Heavenly Father speaks are similar to Psalm 2:17, revealing Jesus’ identity (“This is My beloved Son “and to Isaiah 42:1 referring to the “suffering servant“ (“with whom I am well pleased“), revealing Jesus’ mission of saving mankind by suffering and death.
The baptism of Jesus reminds us of our identity. It reminds us of who we are and Whose we are. By Baptism we become sons and daughters of God, brothers and sisters of Jesus, members of his Church, heirs of Heaven, and temples of the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ baptism reminds us also of our mission: a) to experience the presence of God within us, to acknowledge our own dignity as God’s children, and to appreciate the Divine Presence in others by honouring them, loving them and serving them in all humility; b) to live as the children of God in thought, word and action. c) to lead holy and transparent Christian lives and not to desecrate our bodies (the temples of the Holy Spirit and members of Jesus’ Body), by impurity, injustice, intolerance, jealousy, or hatred; d) to accept both the good and the bad experiences of life as the gifts of a loving Heavenly Father for our growth in holiness; e) to grow daily in intimacy with God by personal and family prayers, by meditative reading of the Word of God, by participating in the Holy Mass, and by frequenting the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
It is a day to thank God for the graces we have received in Baptism, to renew our Baptismal promises and to preach Christ’s “Good News” by our transparent Christian lives of love, mercy, service, and forgiveness.