The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord


By Emily VanBerkum

Today’s Gospel allows us to reflect on the Sacrament of Baptism. Jesus met John at the Jordan River seeking baptism by water. Understandably, John questioned Jesus’ motives. Why is Jesus seeking repentance? Why does Jesus’ baptism occur by water instead of the “Holy Spirit and fire” as prophesied by John? However, Jesus responds by informing John that baptism by water is no fluke. Amazingly, this humble act is the way Jesus consciously chose to begin his ministry.

John’s baptism of Jesus marks a relationship of mutuality. Jesus says, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Clearly, it is proper for “us”- both Jesus and John- to fulfill the work of righteousness together.

I interpret the “work of righteousness” to be Jesus’ particular brand of justice imbued with a profound sense of humility. Jesus’ ministry demands a change in the power dynamic that oppresses and exalts peace and hope for God’s Reign. Jesus is praised by a divine voice for accepting God’s will, yet it is imperative that his followers also take part in the life-giving work of righteousness.

There is no greater imagery than Jesus emerging from the water as the “heavens opened and the Spirit of God descended upon Him like a dove.” Jesus’ baptism in the water created a possibility for ministry that involves Jesus and all believers in perfect relationship.

Our baptism reimagined this sacred moment as the start of our own ministries. As we near the end of the second week into a new year, take some time to reflect upon Jesus’ humility. How will you enact righteousness on earth? And, what does baptism mean to you? Is it simply a sacrament of initiation or a constant reminder that you are co-heir to the Reign of God humbly opened through Jesus’ righteousness?

“Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.” (Matthew 5:6)