The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord
Sunday after Epiphany (or, if Epiphany is celebrated on 7 or 8 January, the following Monday)
Liturgical Color: White/Gold
He bowed his head in humility as an example, not because he suffered imperfections
Who would not want a doctor who, before he cuts, lifts his shirt a little, shows his own scar, and says to the patient, “I had the same. It’s going to be alright”? What soldier would not be just a little braver, stand a little taller, seeing medals for valor on his commander’s uniform? We want our heroes, our leaders, and our guides to lead through personal example. To have been there. To have done that. And we want our Savior to do the same. To empathize. To participate. To identify. To accompany. Actions resonate more than words.
Our sinless God “became” sin, in the words of St. Paul. Jesus identifies with sin but never sinned. Jesus carries sin but is not a sinner. Why? Because to become sin is to become man. In order for God to enter into human reality, He had to identify with all that sin entails. God wanted to stand with us shoulder to shoulder. He did not fake becoming man. He really became man. And if God came to forgive sins and sinners, and to shed His blood for them on the cross, He had to bear the burden they bore yet retain His perfection.
This is why our sinless God was baptised on today’s feast. God lays to the side His perfection and dignity and bows His head in the dirty waters of a river. He lined up with sinners to receive in humility what He did not need. To attend a school whose subjects He had mastered. Our God knew the value of empathy. He knew the power of example. And He knew that His ministry to mankind had to start not on a golden throne but in the mud with other men just trying to start again and again and again.
The fullness of the Holy Trinity, first revealed more subtly at the Annunciation, is present and spoken for at the Lord’s baptism. The Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, hovers. The voice of God the Father intones favor toward His Son. And the Son enters into the essential Christian pact with man—I will become like you so that you can become like me. Sins will be taken away through water and blood. I will suffer for your benefit. This is the promise. And the Church’s priests will carry on the baptising and forgiving and consecrating until the sun sets for the last time. God comes to us in many ways, but most intensely through the Sacraments. Jesus’ actions prove this.
O Lord, your Baptism shows us that you are not remote. You are at our side. You know sin but are not a sinner. Give us the grace to renew our baptism through a frequent reception of confession and the Holy Eucharist. By receiving one, we strengthen the others. By receiving You, we receive God Himself.