Sunday, January 10
The Baptism of the Lord
Mark 1: 7 – 11
This is what John the Baptist proclaimed:
“One mightier than I is coming after me.
I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.
I have baptized you with water;
he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
It happened in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee
and was baptized in the Jordan by John.
On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open
and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him.
And a voice came from the heavens,
“You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
Jesus comes before St John the Baptist, knowing that his time of quiet in humble Nazareth is coming to an end. Those hours of careful craftsmanship with Joseph’s tools in the woodshop, the loving care of his mother, and fraternity among his neighbors and extended family is over. His transition to his evangelizing period is not marked with grand fanfare or delusional excesses of extravagant dress and personality quirks. Our Savior instead goes to stand in the line of repentant sinners who are waiting to be baptized by the camel-hair wearing ascetic in the desert.
The people around him were there voluntarily; the Jewish law prescribed ways of dealing with sin, but being baptized was not one of them. This baptism was an extra-liturgical step of personal atonement; having fulfilled the Law’s provisions, these pious Jews desired even more of a personal expression of repentance before God. Having made “official” atonement for their sin according to the cultic precepts of the Temple, they now wished in an act of personal devotion to be symbolically washed clean from their former selves that had committed that sin.
After hours of baptizing repentant sinners, no wonder St John was startled to see in his line the only sinless one in the world. But Jesus has quietly waited his time in the line to be baptized. Like his patience in living a normal childhood and family life, he is patient and voluntarily places himself in the same line of repentance as those around him. But his baptism does not announce a turning away from a personal sin, but rather the future conquering of all Sin. The waters of the Jordan do not sanctify Jesus; He sanctifies the waters that will be used for the Sacrament of Baptism.
And Jesus’ humility to stand with his humanity, while also being divine, is answered by an outpouring from above: “You are my beloved Son; with you, I am well pleased.”
Fr. Matthew Morris