We can not know how or why the sinless Jesus ended up at the Jordan to be baptized. However many throughout history have tried to surmise what happened. Jesus was born to parents who were observant Jews. Jesus was taught that God was the father of Israel. Jesus took that personally and by his teenage years went on a pilgrimage to the temple. Jesus has a sense that God's business was his business. When Mary and Joseph left the temple without Jesus and went back to find him Jesus seemed to criticize them saying-"Did you not know I must be my Father's house?" As scripture tells us from that moment forward Jesus grew in wisdom and age and favor before God. Jesus looked at his world and saw that 95% of his people were impoverished; he saw the occupying military forces and wondered if his people always needed to be under foreign domination.
Jesus had heard of this wandering prophet who was telling everyone about the end of the world. The prophet, John the Baptist, clearly saw that the world was not as it should be and that God was coming to set things straight. God would establish his own rule on earth as it is in heaven. Jesus was caught up in the energy and dynamism of this prophet. He felt surely God was with this prophet and speaking through him. Jesus along with many others wanted to join the movement and took his place among the throng going into the river Jordan to be baptized. Jesus felt he was part of the chosen people and wanted to share in their inheritance along with many others.
After his baptism the heavens opened up with the Holy Spirit descending upon Jesus and all hearing a loud voice proclaiming, "You are my beloved, with you I am well pleased." Jesus departed and went into solitude to reflect on all that had happened.
When we were baptized we were baptized into the life of Christ; taking on all that the life of Christ entailed. However today we celebrate the baptism of Jesus. Jesus wanted to enter into our life as fully as possible; he wanted to take on all that we take on in our human existence. Jesus humbled himself to become one of us; to live and work among us; to suffer and to die as one of us; to deal with everything we deal with in our life.
In our first reading this morning we hear the call from Isaiah to prepare the way of the Lord-to make the rough ways smooth. "Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs carrying them in his bosom and leading the ewes with care." As our faith community is called "Jesus Our Shepherd"-we are called to act like Christ to care for each other and carry each other along our life's journey. Some times we may find ourselves lost and in need of the care of the Good Shepherd. Jesus challenges us to shepherd each other.
St. Paul in his letter to Titus reminds us that we all are baptized into Christ. Being aware of this new relationship we have with Christ, we know we will be guided by God in all things and enlightened and empowered to know how to choose the good and to recognize and reject what is not of God. Our baptism is a cleansing and rebirth into a new life of Christ.
The same Holy Spirit that descended upon Jesus at his baptism comes upon each of us to lead and guide us as we each walk our path and journey of faith. Luke relates the descending of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus at his baptism to the dove portrayed in the book of Genesis. The dove signaled the end of the flood and the new beginning for Noah and his people. The voice from heaven proclaimed, "You are my beloved, with you I am well pleased".
Do you realize that you are the beloved of God---that God is well pleased with you---that God will never leave you alone on your faith journey?
Jesus enters fully into our life. His baptism is at the heart of his mission to heal us. He enters the wounds of our self-rejection, without having made the same rejection himself. He accepts full solidarity with us. By doing this he transforms human life. By being fully human we see Jesus being tempted by the devil to reject his transformative life; he would undertake all manner of healing and disarming devils; he would announce a kingdom to remove all blindness, poverty, imprisonment and darkness. In the end he would face the ultimate rejection and be crucified like a common criminal.
Life is relational. Jesus has entered into human life by undergoing baptism to fully join with us on our journey of faith. We also were baptized into the life of Christ. We are joined together with Christ and he with us. Jesus challenges us to follow him; to drink of His cup of salvation; to transform our life. Are we "up to the challenge"?