Today’s feast of the Baptism of the Lord, by John in the river Jordan, marks the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. As Christmastide draws to a close, we hear very little of Jesus’ life in Nazareth. The last episode was when he was twelve years old and stayed on in the Temple unknown to his parents. The next 18 years of his life are summed up in: ‘He then went down with them and came to Nazareth and lived under their authority. His mother stored up all these things in her heart. An Jesus increased in wisdom, in stature and in favour with God and people.’ He was known as the son of Mary and Joseph, the carpenter.
About the age of 30, Jesus made the move into his public ministry. It’s worth noting that this was the same age when a Rabbi would begin his ministry too. Also, John the Baptist was part of a Jewish group known as the Essenes. They lived in the mountain caves by the Dead Sea. This community produced the texts of scripture now known as the Dead Sea Scrolls. The practiced a ritual of full immersion in water to denote a spiritual cleansing and the beginning of a new way of life.
We take up the story of John the Baptist inviting people to the Jordan river and immerse themselves in a Baptism of Repentance. Jesus appeared in the middle of that vast crowd who had come from all over. People were attracted by John and came seeking a new life confessing their sins. Such was the excitement about John that people thought he must be the Messiah, the promised one from God.
John declared openly, he was not the Messiah, and at the same time pointed to Jesus. “There is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” And the voice from heaven said: “You are my Son, the Beloved, my favour rests on you”.
A new age has dawned. “He (Jesus) will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” In our Preface at Mass we are told – ‘He has been annointed with the oil of gladness and sent to bring the good news to the poor.’
So we can well think of our own Baptism. It may not have been by immersion, but all the symbolic signs were there – water, candles and oils – all engaging us into the life and ministry of Jesus himself.
Let us contamplate again the significance of our baptism – the privileges of becoming children of God and then commissioned to live that life of God each day. We need to remember that when we are given a task by Jesus, we are also given the means of carrying it out – the power of the Holy Spirit to inspire and strengthen us.
That’s all for now, God Bless. Fr Joe