Jesus' baptism, an act of love and liberation
A reflection for the Baptism of the Lord, Year C
by Fr. Peter Skudra
Dear friends, let’s reflect together on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. This is one of the so-called “theophanies” – God’s self-revelation to man. In this event the whole Trinity reveals itself. God the Son makes himself known, the Father speaks, and the Holy Spirit descends.
By celebrating this feast, we can reflect on our own baptism. Pope Francis from time to time reminds us how important baptism is to us. He has asked us questions like: When was your baptism? Do you know the date of your baptism? Do you celebrate your baptism as much as your birthday? These are good questions to ask. If you do not know when you were baptized, look for the parish where you were baptized and ask them to look into their registers.
Most of us know that through baptism we become children of God and it cleanses us from all sin. Then we might ask why Jesus had to be baptized since he is the Son of God from all eternity without any sin.
First of all, we have to know that the baptism we receive in church is different from the one done by John the Baptist. The baptism performed by John was one of the purification rituals in ancient Israel. It was symbolic. People repented, converted from sins, and as a symbol of this choice, they underwent this ritual of purification. That’s why around John there were so many sinners: tax collectors, prostitutes, soldiers, and even Pharisees.
Why did Jesus have to be baptized then? There was no need for him to be baptized. The Catechism of the Catholic Church
explains it to us: “The baptism of Jesus is on his part the acceptance and inauguration of his mission as God's suffering Servant. He allows himself to be numbered among sinners; he is already 'the Lamb of God, who takes away sins of the world'” (CCC 536).
It is a very important Christmas message for us today. On Christmas we celebrate that God loves humankind so much that he not only became like a man – mortal, limited, leaving behind his omnipotence. But not only that. God is not afraid to identify with the lowliest people of all. Even more – he is not afraid to be among sinners. The River Jordan where John baptized people was a place to leave sins behind, to wash them away. So we could say it was a very dirty place. Imagine your sink when you wash your dishes after a meal. And Jesus is not afraid to step into it, to identify with sinners, to come to the dirtiest places.
He is not doing it because he says it’s OK if we sin. He comes to take all the dirty stuff, all the sins away from us. He is like a parent who is ready to change a baby's diaper so that the baby might be clean. That’s why we quote John the Baptist at every Mass – this is the Lamb of God, who takes away sins of the world.
God remains God, immaculate, without any sin, but He is ready to do everything to help us get rid of any sin and all the heaviness and evil it brings us. For us it is important to decide if we allow Him to save us or not. Are you ready to receive God’s love? Will you take it?
By celebrating the baptism of our Lord Jesus, we can think of our own baptism, of the fact that he has made us clean from all sin. How will we respond to his love and effort?
This is the question we can try to answer every day, especially on the anniversary of our baptism. How do I respond to God's love and the freedom He has brought us?
The readings for the Baptism of the Lord, Year C, are
Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7
Luke 3:15-16, 21-22
Fr. Peter Skudra is a priest of the Diocese of Riga, Latvia. Born into a Catholic family and the oldest of four children, he was ordained in the summer of 2014. He is currently the director of Radio Maria Latvia and a chaplain for youth work in the Diocese of Riga.