Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today on this Sunday we mark the occasion of the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. This marks the liturgical end for the season of Christmas as we begin the first part of the Ordinary Time tomorrow. Traditionally, the Christmas season of course still continues for an entire season length of forty days up to the second day of February, on which day we celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord or Candlemas.
But today as we celebrate this Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, we remember that moment when the earlier, more obscure years of Our Lord’s life came to a conclusion, and He began His ministry openly after His baptism by St. John the Baptist at the River Jordan. The earlier years of His life, His infancy, childhood and earlier days that we remembered and celebrated in Christmas has now moved on to the reflection of the works and ministry of Our Lord that was begun on His baptism, which we are celebrating on this very day.
First of all, as we heard from our first reading today, from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, we heard of the words of the Lord’s salvation spoken through the prophet, the promise of His salvation and the coming of the One through Whom God would redeem all of His people. In that revelation through the prophet, the Lord mentioned how He would send a servant to come before Him and to prepare His way, as the voice that would cry out in the wilderness, calling on all the people to prepare themselves for the coming of the Lord.
This was the prophecy of the coming of St. John the Baptist, the Herald of the Messiah or the Saviour, as St. John the Baptist did exactly as the prophecy had foretold, as the one who cried out in the wilderness, spending his time living in those wilderness, calling on the people to repent from their sins and to prepare themselves for the coming of the Lord. The Lord has sent him to make ready the people to welcome the One and True Saviour of the world, Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
St. John the Baptist gathered a large following, as many people from throughout Judea and even beyond came to him in the River Jordan, and gave themselves to be baptised, to be immersed in the water of the Jordan. The site of this baptism was significant, as it was also the same site where the Israelites once came to the Promised Land under the leadership of Joshua, who succeeded Moses. It was a reminder of God’s love and providence for His people, and how He had guided them all throughout their journey and life.
The Lord opened the River Jordan and allowed the people of Israel to pass by the dry riverbed, just as He had once done at the Red Sea, when He rescued them from the Pharaoh and the Egyptians. And through the symbolic act of baptism at the River Jordan, the people whom St. John the Baptist had called and then responded to his call, committed themselves to a new life, away from the slavery of sin and stating their desire to seek the Lord and the promise of eternal life, much as their ancestors going away from their old slavery in Egypt to the Promised Land of Canaan.
Then, we all know that today we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, marking the moment when the Lord Jesus Himself, the very Saviour Whom St. John the Baptist was sent to this world to prepare for His coming, was baptised. We might find it confusing or perplexed on why the Lord need to be baptised, just as St. John the Baptist himself had felt exactly the same thing. In fact, he said to the Lord that he was the one needed baptising. But the Lord told him that everything was to be done as decreed.
Through baptism, Our Lord shared fully in our humanity, not because He needed that forgiveness for sin or because He needed any form of cleansing, as He is the One without any sin. Yet, through His baptism, He united all of us sinners to Himself, and sanctifying the waters of baptism, that from then on, through the New Covenant that He would make with us all, He would redeem us and cleanse us through the blessed waters, passing on from death and sin into a new life blessed by God.
At the Easter Vigil, during the time when all the catechumens are to be baptised by the holy water blessed that night, the Paschal or Easter Candle made from pure beeswax is immersed into the water three times, much like how baptism is done through the thrice immersion into the sacred waters. This represents that same moment when Our Lord was baptised, as the Paschal Candle represents the Body of Christ, united to His divinity as the One Saviour of the world, Son of God and Son of Man Who had willingly taken up His Cross to suffer for us and die for us, so that by His death we may all have a new life through Him.
Therefore, today this Sunday as we rejoice and celebrate Our Lord’s baptism at the River Jordan, let us all remember the moment of our baptism, whether it is as an adult through conversion, or if we had been baptised as infants and were too young to remember, let us all ask about that moment through our parents and godparents if we have no idea of what had happened back then. It is important for us to remember the moment of our baptism, as it was the moment marking our entry into the Church and in sharing the Lord’s promised salvation, becoming a member of the Church of God.
Through baptism, all of us have resolved to leave behind our past existence filled with sin and evil, and embark on a new journey of faith, in a new life blessed by God. No longer should we allow ourselves to be dictated by the whims of our human desires and worldly temptations all around us. That is why it is so important that we remember our baptism that we remember our commitment and also everything that we need to do as Christians, as those whom God had called and chosen to be His own.
And now, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we enter into this season of the Ordinary Time, our lives are by no means supposed to be ordinary, as how many of us will often misunderstand the meaning of the ‘Ordinary’ in the Ordinary Time. The meaning of ordinary there is truly not just being ordinary, usual or mundane, but rather is a reminder for us of the actions we must all do, in giving our lives over to the service of God. Just as the Lord began His ministry after His baptism, thus we are also called to embark on this journey of faith.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore do our best to commit ourselves to the Lord from now, especially if we have not done so. May the Lord be with us always, and may He continue to bless us and empower us to to live our lives with good Christian outlook, and do whatever we can to glorify God’s Holy Name and serve Him wholeheartedly. May God bless us in our every good works and endeavours, now and always. Amen.