This year I would like us to focus on just one aspect which is usually overlooked in the art and subsequently in our Christian imagination. I believe that it impoverishes our faith as much as it impoverishes the appreciation of what happened when John baptized Jesus.
Most of the presentations of the Baptism of Jesus have our Lord and the Baptist alone. It looks like a prearranged appointment to have a family baptism. Jesus and John were cousins after all. However let us remember that Jesus didn’t come to a cozy chapel where he could have a private baptism. Instead he came to the place where everyone could come and in fact where people did come to be baptized by John.
Although it was a river it served as both a baptismal font and a confessional for those who had been moved by John’s preaching on repentance. People went down to the Jordan River; they confessed their sins and John baptized them there. If you have ever been to the Holy Land you may remember that the water of the Jordan is murky. It is not the crystal clear water we get from our taps. However the eyes of faith allow us to see that the water at that time was even murkier, dirtier because it carried all the sins which the people were confessing there in hope of obtaining forgiveness.
How shocked John must have been when he saw his pure and innocent cousin, Jesus, queuing up among the sinners and descending into the dirty water of the Jordan, the water which was also ‘polluted’ by the sins of those who were baptized there. We read in the Scriptures that Jesus ‘bore our sins in his body on the cross.’ When he went down into the dirty waters of the Jordan, he, as God and Saviour, in a mysterious but effective way, absorbed the sins of those who were baptized before him, but also the sins of all people who in the generations to come would be baptized. My sins were there and your sins were there too. It was right and just for Jesus to have gone down to the Jordan to collect our sins. Before he took up the cross, before he began his way of the cross, from that moment of his baptism he was burdened by our sins. Should we be surprised then that after all those things we remember today were completed Jesus went to the desert to be tempted by devil? My dear fellow sinners, isn’t it what marks our life? This deceiving lure of sin? Jesus was not carrying our sins in a tight jar. He was carrying them in his own body. That’s why he knows the power of temptations and the desolation which comes after.
After this Mass I invite you to come to the baptismal font in this church. Immerse your whole hand in the water, make the sign of the cross and say loudly: ‘Thank you my Saviour.’ In this way remind yourself that whatever may inflict you, doesn’t matter how crushing and humiliating it may be is something you don’t bear alone. Jesus took it upon himself when he was baptized in that dirty water of the Jordan.
What did happen in the Gospel for this Sunday? Our Lord took upon himself what we would like to get rid of but are unable to.
Thank you my Saviour.