Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Baptism of Our Lord. This brings to an end the season of Christmas. In the Eastern Church this feast is called Theophany because at the baptism of Christ in the River Jordan, God appeared in three persons.
Jesus is baptised not amidst great fanfare, but rather in a quiet, subdued environment. Matthew’s Gospel today tells us that it was only Jesus who saw the dove and heard the voice and that following this he was led to isolation and contemplation. From this moment, of profound encounter with the Spirit of God, Jesus needs time to consider the love of and beauty that surrounds him. He will eventually emerge and seek to gently influence and challenge others to live lives of justice and love.
We reflect today on the great inclusive nature of Baptism. We celebrate that this Sacrament is the only Sacrament which is recognised amongst the majority of all major Christian denominations. That is, we as Catholics recognise that: Eastern Rite and Orthodox traditions; Lutheran; Anglican; Presbyterian; etc, baptisms are valid. We are united in faith with all people who recognise that Jesus Christ becomes human, and is the son of God and a member of the Trinity. What a marvellous unifying point for all Christian
Jesus goes about his ministry now in quiet proclamation. Not in fanciful parades, not in mixing only with the ‘holy’ and dignified’, but rather to the contrary, in speaking about love, mercy and forgiveness amongst those on the margins. Jesus spends next to no time mixing with priests and politicians – but rather those at the coal face who yes, know they are flawed, teaching them that in their beautifully flawed state, they are loved. Jesus’ Baptism today reminds us of the need for the active presence of Christians in our community, and as the quote from St. Francis of Assisi attests, to ‘Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.