We celebrate this weekend the Baptism of Jesus. It might seem strange that Jesus, who was without sin, would need to be baptized since Baptism takes away all, but the little prayer book Magnificat gives us an explanation of the event. Jesus joins his people going out to John the Baptist in a gesture of repentance, not because there is sin in him but to make it possible for us to share in his relationship with the Father. He goes to the Baptism as a beggar because he takes upon himself our misery. The Lord Jesus lowers himself in his Baptism and acknowledges His Father so that we will never hesitate to do the same. The Baptism of Jesus is acknowledged by all the Evangelists but in different ways and was held to be of great importance in the apostolic community, not only because there was the manifestation of the Trinity Mystery in a clear and complete way, bur also because that event began the public ministry of Jesus.
After the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized, Luke tells us while Jesus was praying the heavens opened and the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus and a voice came from heaven: "You are my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased." The Baptism of Jesus at the Jordan is the anticipation of his baptism of blood on the Cross, and as the Magnificat points out, it is the symbol of the entire sacramental activity by which the Redeemer will bring about the salvation of humanity. This is why the Patristic tradition, the early fathers of the Church, has dedicated great interest in the feast which is the most ancient feast after Easter.
With the feast of the Baptism of Jesus we leave Christmas time and begin what is known as Ordinary time. Besides the times of the year which have their own distinctive character there remains in the yearly cycle thirty three or thirty four weeks in which no particular mystery of Christ is celebrated but rather the mystery of Christ is honored in its fullness, especially on Sundays. Ordinary time will be interrupted on the fifth of March when Ash Wednesday will introduce the season of Lent.
Fr John R. Mulvehill