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This Sunday, the liturgical season of Christmas comes to a conclusion with the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord. This is a time when we might ask ourselves why Jesus would allow himself to be baptized by John the Baptist and what practical applications might we make in our own lives.
There is a difference between the baptism of John the Baptist and the baptism that Jesus gives to us. The word baptism means to submerge in water. Baptism was not unknown to the Jewish people.
From the beginning John’s baptism focused on conversion. His exhortations and appeals for personal repentance prepared the people to receive those graces which Christian baptism gives to us. While John’s baptism, a ritualistic expression of conversion, penance and repentance, did not confer sanctifying grace, Jesus’ baptism, a sacrament necessary for salvation, does bestow upon the baptized sanctifying grace.
Jesus had no need of conversion and repentance. He is the sinless one.
At Calvary, Jesus takes the sin of the world upon himself. In a similar way, as he immerses himself in the waters of the Jordan, the sinless one takes upon himself the sins of humanity. Through his baptism, Jesus announces to the world that his public ministry has begun. In his humanity, he freely chooses to complete this mission and makes a free decision: he will carry out the Father’s will to its’ ultimate consequence. Through his baptism, Jesus identifies himself with all of us; i.e., sinful humanity, so that we can come to him filled with total confidence and peace.
Finally, as we contemplate the baptism of the Lord, we are reminded of our apostolic mission as disciples of Jesus Christ. Jesus commissions the Church to go forth and baptize all nations.