THE BAPTISM OF THE LORD YEAR B ON JANUARY 10, 2021 (R. 1: Isaiah 42: 1- 4, 6- 7; Psalm 29: 1- 4, 3, 9- 10; R. 2: Acts. 10: 34- 38; Gospel: Matthew 1: 7-11)
FR EMMANUEL INEDU OCHIGBO
It was Good Friday. The family attended the Good Friday services in Church. Later at home, the family gathered for night prayer, which was led by their five-year-old daughter. She concluded the prayer by saying, “May the soul of Jesus Christ, who died today and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.” The older members of the family could not control their laughter. Her mom in simple terms tried to explain the divinity of Jesus to her. She added that Jesus did not commit any sin, and so does not need the mercy and forgiveness of God for himself. The little girl then asked her mom, “If Jesus was sinless, why then was he baptized?”
It may interest you to know that the question of this five-year-old has been there since the day Jesus went to River Jordan to be baptized by John the Baptist. Baptism entails the confession of sins, the renunciation of old bad ways, and the reception into God’s family. But Jesus does not have any old bad way to renounce, and he is the only eternally begotten Son of God the Father, so there is no need to welcome him into God’s family. Why then was Jesus baptized? Even John the Baptist protested on that day saying to Jesus, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” (Matthew 3:14). In reply, Jesus said, “Let it be so for now; for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15).
The key to understanding the baptism of Jesus is to see it in the light of his incarnation, and his paschal mystery of his passion, death, and resurrection. The reason why Jesus was baptized is the same reason why he was born, and the same reason why he suffered, died and rose from the dead. The baptism of Jesus was not for himself; he was baptized to identify with human beings to lift us out of our sinfulness to righteousness. Like I shared with you on Christmas Day, people are usually born to live, but one person that was born to die is Jesus. He could have performed all the miracles he performed without becoming man, but there was one thing he could not do as God, it was impossible for him to suffer and die as God. As such, he had to borrow flesh and blood from the Blessed Virgin Mary.
We, human beings, were the ones who owed the debt, but he came as our ambassador, he did the negotiation and paid it all. To be the ambassador of a nation, you have to first be a citizen of that nation. So, to represent us and pay our debt, he had to be born a human being. When he went into River Jordan, he did not commit any sin, instead, he went with our guilt. For the moment he became a human being, he took the weight of our sins on himself, which will be symbolized by the weight of the Cross he will carry on Good Friday. He did not go in to be sanctified by the water, instead, he went into the water to sanctify the water of baptism in preparation for our own baptism. As such, anyone who receives the sacrament of baptism after Jesus Christ is configured to Christ. And so, like Jesus, each baptized person becomes a priest, a king and a prophet.
One thing that stands out for me is that Jesus took responsibility for our sins, yet he did not talk down on us, he did not bully us, he did not belittle us. Even when he was dying on the Cross, he prayed for his executioners, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.
Having been configured to Christ by virtue of our baptism, we are also called to take responsibility for others who may not be as blessed or endowed as we are. On this note we examine ourselves: In school, if we happen to be the smartest in the class, how do we treat those who are struggling? Do we use our talents to mock them or to upgrade them? At work, if we are more efficient, how do we relate with those who find it difficult? Do we try to find out how we can help them, or do we hasten to report them so they can be penalized or fired? In our family, if we are the most educated, wealthiest or most influential, do we go an extra mile to help carry others along or do we talk down on them or even abandon them because we think it is about our hard work and their laziness? If you are the very religious one and holy one, how do you treat those you judge to be ungodly? Remember, Jesus was not just godly, He was God when he came to live among us, and he did not look down on sinners, rather, he befriended them to upgrade them.
There is nothing we are or have that is by our power. They come from God, and we are at our best when we are channels of God’s blessings. Today’s Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, marks the end of the Christmas Season, and the beginning of the public ministry of Jesus Christ. As we step into the Ordinary Time of the liturgical year, may God renew in us the grace of our baptism that we may be more loving to all, so that at the end of our sojourn on earth, God will say to us as he said to Jesus, “You are my beloved…, with you I am well pleased.” Amen.