In all the world’s religions, water is used to cleanse a person from sin or as a rite of purification. People wash before some great transition in their lives. John the Baptist and Jesus knew about the ritual washings that were required by the Law. Some of the ritual washings were required when a person sinned which is probably the origin of what John was doing. He called the people of his day to a concrete sign of a change of heart; a new beginning.
So, why would Jesus need to repent? After all, he was without sin. It is here that Jesus changes the meaning of what this ritual bath was about; it was about a cleansing, but for a definite purpose. As he walked out of that water, the Father reveals who Jesus is: He is the eternal son of God filled with the divine Spirit. Our baptism frees us from the power of sin and death to reveal who we are: the beloved sons and daughters of the Father, we are brothers and sisters of Jesus and we are the living temples of the Holy Spirit.
This is the beginning of Jesus’s public ministry. Isaiah proclaimed what the mission of the savior would be:
To establish justice: a right relationship with God and others To be a light to the nations: to enlighten others about Jesus to open the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.
This is the mission of all the baptized. We have to move away from the belief that baptism is just a ritual or a naming ceremony. It is the beginning of the world seeing us for who we are “spirit-filled disciples that have a mission.” In baptism, we own the same mission as Jesus did. When he walked out of the Jordan, he began his ministry. We need to walk out of the same old/same old; and allow the Spirit that we were immersed in to light a fire with us and individuals and as a community to the Kingdom of God.
We need to establish justice in the world: working for the right to life from conception to natural death. to work for a world in which no one is hungry or cold to be Jesus in a world that is thirsty for His love and care work for a world where no one is harmed because of their religion, their ethnic origin, who they love, if they are mentally ill or dealing with an addiction, and the list continues.
We need to be a light in our schools, places of work, our neighborhoods, in our society. Like Jesus, whose light shone and guided shepherds and magi, we need to the light of Jesus. In a world when many identify themselves a “none” when asked their religion, our work is cut out for us.
People are blind because of consumerism and materialism, imprisoned by behaviors and substances by hate, racism, homophobia, many are engulfed by the darkness of unbelief or disillusionment in the church or faith, trapped in the darkness of fear and apathy.
We can only be a light for others when we know the light ourselves; we can only make disciples when we are disciples. As Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount: Do not hide your light under a bushel basket!
We are a Catholic community that can change the world because the power of the grace of the Spirit that was poured into us on the day of our baptism and rages in us like a mighty flood; we just need to be willing to go with it and not fight against it.
My brothers and sisters, in the beginning of this new year of 2020, may the surging flood of baptism enable us to change our world. Jesus gave us a clear mission, clear direction, clear example; we just need to do it. May God make it so through us, his beloved sons and daughters.