Baptism of the Lord 2021 (B)
I had the great privilege of living in Jerusalem for almost five years. And one of the highlights of my time there was baptizing someone in the river Jordan. It was the same place and the same river where Jesus was baptized 2,000 years earlier. What a privilege. I did not see a dove nor hear a voice saying, “You are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on you.” But the person I’d baptized had received the holy spirit, and was now a child of God and co-heir with Christ. He was no longer the same person.
One might wonder why Jesus needed to be baptised, since he was without sin. We don’t really know except that it marked the beginning of his public ministry. From now on his life would never be the same again; now he was called by the Father, ‘to serve the cause of right’… ‘to open the eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and those who live in darkness from the dungeon.’ He was still the same person but he was different. His baptism had changed him. So much so that when he began preaching his relatives thought he had gone mad. But he hadn’t of course. He was as sane and anyone. But the effect of his baptism was to change his life. He began to preach and to heal, because the power of God was working in him.
We too were baptised. I presume most of us were baptised as babies. Probably not in the river Jordan but in a parish font. Once the baptism was over we were never the same again; the spirit and power of God was in us. That power is made manifest in ways that are not always obvious. Most of the time we don’t see it. Indeed, if you are like me, you tend to see more your weaknesses. And so, for example, during this pandemic I thought I should be above it all; that I should be strong and unaffected by the doom and gloom. “I am an ordained priest,” I said to myself; “surely I should be an example; someone who was not like others, but I am just like everyone else, like most people I feel down at times, bored, trapped and fed up.
Christ’s baptism was a turning point in his life. And so it is in ours. We don’t suddenly become superhuman, above all pain and those things that afflict our world, especially now. No, God’s power given to us in baptism works in us in spite of our weaknesses and failings. The good we do in life is because of God’s grace working in us. We too are called to ‘serve the cause of right… and to open the eyes of the blind.’ God is working in you as He did in Christ. With His power you can do great things; this is what you were called to do; this is why you were baptised.