Monday, January 14, 2008

Baptism of Jesus

Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into his Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

I love this feast day and the gospel texts for the day. Jesus comes to the river Jordan to be baptized by John who, after initial reservations proceeds to baptize Jesus as he did so many others. John preaches a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins and people of all sorts flock to hear him and be baptized. Yet, as we analize the gospel texts relating to John's ministry, it becomes apparent that though many come , those seeking baptism are reckoned among the rejected of society! Tax collectors, women of ill repute and even soldiers go into the waters, while many of the religious watch from a safe distance.

What prompted Jesus, by all accounts the sinless one, to submit himself to a baptism for sinners? Perhaps his desire to fully identify with the human condition, to be counted among those whom society despised and in need of God's intervention in their life, whom by his own account, he came to seek and serve. This solidarity with the marginated would accompany Jesus throughout his ministry, death and resurrection. He announced himself as the Messiah to a woman of a despised ethnic group with relationship issues,now on her 6th significant other. He attended the houses of public sinners, allowed a woman of ill repute to touch and kiss his feet and some of his last words were reserved for a man dying for crimes committed. His first words recorded after Resurrection were to a woman, from whom it is said he cast out 7 demons and with no credibility among the apostles.

No wonder it was difficult for the religious of his day to relate to Jesus; How could his actions in any way be those consistent with their idea of a Holy God whom they claimed to serve? Yet, as he comes out of the water, fully identifying with sinful, needy people, his identity as Son of God becomes even more clear! Here is one of the places in Scripture where we glimpse into the mystery of the Holy Trinity; Jesus is Baptized, the Holy Spirit as a dove descends upon him and the voice of the Father proclaims his approval.

This image is one we would do well to remember as we strive to, "with the help of God", live out our own Baptismal covenant! In baptism we identify with Christ's death and resurrection, we "put on Christ"! We also identify with others in whom, we promise to "seek and serve Christ", whose dignity we pledge to acknowledge, vowing to work for "justice and peace" in the world. May God grant us his power and grace to do so!



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