The world is generally ruled by fashion and trends into which people are initiated or introduced. These fashion and trends are normally promoted by people we call celebrities. Whatever a celebrity wears is considered fashionable and trendy and people go after such things just because of a celebrity’s connection with the thing in question. Today our Lord Jesus Christ (the religious celebrity of his time) went to the Jordan to be baptised by John. In doing the above, he drew people’s attention to the reality and power of baptism.
The word INITIATION in often related to clandestine groups. However, it actually stands for the reception of an individual into any group, association, organisation or way of life as a new member. Another description of initiation could be ceremony of INTRODUCTION. For every INITIATION or INTRODUCTION one enters into something NEW.
Today we are celebrating the Feast of the Baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ and it presupposes so many other important things:
- In the first place, it celebrates the sacrament of baptism known also as the sacrament of initiation and which cleanses us from original sin, makes Christians, children of God and members of the Church.
- It tells us about the importance of the sacrament of baptism.
- It tells us about the baptism of John himself.
- It reminds us of the continual renewal we need in our lives as Christians.
- For us it serves as a significant initiation or introduction into the New Year of God’s grace.
Before we make possible connections with the readings, it will be worthwhile for us to ask some pertinent questions and seek possible answers. The first could be why our Lord Jesus Christ went to John for baptism considering the fact that the baptism of John was that of repentance?
The question above is very important as it has occupied extensive biblical discussions and scriptural reflections. There are very pertinent answers we can give to the above question on why Jesus came to John for Baptism.
- To demonstrate the importance of Baptism: Call it advertisement or promotional activity it can blend. When our Lord Jesus Christ went to John for Baptism he was at the same time promoting and advertising John’s ministry of baptism. It was like when Michael Jackson advertised for Pepsi and actually took a gulp from the bottle, the whole world ran after Pepsi cola in the manner of the King of pop. Our Lord thus demonstrated the importance of baptism by going in to be baptised by John.
- An occasion for the Baptism of the Baptist: Many could have asked as the question “Who Baptised John?” Does it mean he didn’t require to be baptised? John was actually baptised at that instant he made it an intention to be baptised by our Lord Jesus Christ. From the account of Matthew (3:13-17) when Jesus came to John to be baptised, John said that it should rather be the other way round. At that moment of vocalising the desire to be baptised by our Lord Jesus Christ, John got his own baptism before proceeding to baptise Jesus Christ our Lord. Of course our catechism tell us about baptism of desire and here it is well established. For desiring it, it showed that he had not been baptised and at the same time he got baptized by the one he was about to baptize.
- To sanctify the water of baptism: Furthermore, when our Lord stepped into the Jordan he who was sinless sanctified the water of baptism for us sinners. There was need for the sinless to make holy what has being infected by sin. The water of the flood during the time of Noah was not sufficient to wipe away the sins of humanity. There was need for another water that is sanctified by the sinless one to save humanity from stain of original sin. It is on this account that St. Peter (1 Pet.3:21) would say that baptism now saves us not just by the washing away of dirt from the flesh but an appeal to God for a good conscience through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The power of baptism cannot be underestimated. Through baptism we are introduced to God through the trinity of persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. To be baptised then is to be “God full” It is on account of this that our Lord’s finally instructions to his apostles included:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt.28:19).
Through baptism we receive divine mercy and comfort as Isaiah’s oracle in the First Reading demonstrated (Is.40:1-5.9-11). Our warfare cannot end, our iniquity cannot be pardoned, and we cannot receive double from the Lord’s hands in place of our sins until we experience the healing touch of baptism and continue to live in it through authentic Christian life. Through the cleansing power of baptism our attention is drawn to the wilderness wherein we are asked to begin a road construction for the Lord by filling up the lacks in our lives (the valleys) by removing the obstacles to holiness (mountains and hills) and by smoothening the rough paths.
The power of baptism can be found in the grace it brings into our lives. In the Second Reading from Paul’s letter to Titus (2:11-14;3:4-7) we are told that it:
“…trains us to renounce irreligion, worldly passions, and to live sober, upright and godly lives in this world, awaiting our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all iniquity and to purify for himself a people of his own and who are zealous for good deeds.
As we call to mind the Baptism of Jesus Christ today, we are reminded of our own baptism. There should be an ongoing renewal of our baptism especially going by our promise of renouncing sin and the devil with his promises. Our baptism should always remind us of the renewal we had from the old nature that was formerly in us. (2 Cor.5:17).
The baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ is a potent introduction to the life of humility. The one who is above all not only took our nature; he humbled himself further and went lower to accept the baptism of John which was a baptism of repentance; though he had no sin. We are left with the lesson that we should adopt humility as an attitude as we launch into the New Year so that we can also be exalted like our Lord Jesus Christ (Phil. 2: 7-9).
The baptism of the Lord further encourages us to show good example to others. Jesus Christ our Lord showed us the way to baptism and went there himself. We should ask ourselves where we are leading people today. To the water of life or to the water of damnation?
May the grace of our baptism be renewed with the celebration of the baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ.