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1/13/19 Baptism of the Lord - Fr. Damian

Why did he do it?

It’s a question that often pops up when we hear these readings and observe this feast.

“Why did Jesus get baptized?” He obviously was free of sin. Why did he go through this ritual? What was the point?

Why did he do it?

Theologians have been writing about this for centuries. They often talk about its symbolic importance. St. Gregory of Nyssa compared the baptism in the Jordan to Joshua entering the promised land through the Jordan. St. Ephrem wrote a hymn comparing the River Jordan to the womb of Mary.

But I think the reality is much simpler — and can lead us today to a deeper appreciation of Christmas and the Incarnation.

In short: this moment when Jesus is baptized shows just how much God wanted to enter our world — to be one of us, to live as one of us, to share in all we are, even to the point of being baptized with all the others.

To use a water metaphor, he took a deep dive.

God sent his only son to be one of us. And he nothing was beneath him.

Christ stepped into the river to experience baptism, and then carried that experience with him— and walking with others who had been baptized and who had committed their lives to repentance.

 

What he did was an act of solidarity and love. It said, “I’m with you.” He wanted to walk with them.

Just as he wants to walk with us.

And he does. 

Christ knows what it is like. He walks with those who have been hurt, betrayed, imprisoned, mocked.

He walks with those who seek refuge.

He walks with migrants and laborers, widows and orphans.

He walks with desperate people running for their lives, seeking a new start in a new place.

He walks with anyone who wants to walk with him, and who seeks a way to the Father.

And he wants us to know: We are not alone. In times of struggle and sorrow. In times of joy ad thanksgiving. He is beside us.

The name we heard again and again during Advent, the name we sang about and celebrated, is the name we need to recall when we hunger for mercy, and consolation, and hope:

Emmanuel. “God with us.”

The baptism in the Jordan reminds us that through Jesus, God is with us — in the deep water, drenched in our humanity.

He became one of us, and went all in. He took the plunge.

Look what we have in return.

The gates of heaven have been opened. Our hearts know mercy. We live in hope.

On the calendar, this feast closes the Christmas season. But don’t think of it as an ending. Today marks a beginning—it recalls the beginning of Christ’s public ministry, and the start of an incredible journey.

It is one that still goes on.

As we prepare to walk forward this day and approach the table of the Lord to receive the Eucharist, remember this:

We walk through the world as different people today because he walked into the Jordan…and then rose from the water to walk with us.

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