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Father Muench Says...

John & Jesus - different kind of baptism

Jan. 18, 2017

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

Our Catholic Christmas Liturgical Season continues every year until the Feast of the Baptism of Jesus, a commemoration of Jesus being baptized by John the Baptist. Then we will begin the next liturgical season, our solemn preparation for Easter with the penitential time of Lent.

Today, I would like to take some time with you to consider this interesting event of the Baptism of Jesus. 
As you may remember, John’s Baptism was not the sacramental Baptism that you and I received.  Our Baptism was that essential sacramental moment when we were brought into new life by the Holy Spirit, uniting us to Our Savior, Jesus Christ, as a member of his Church.  Jesus, as Our Savior, brought that new Baptismal life through the Holy Spirit.

John the Baptist and Jesus were cousins.  They were about 30 years old during the stories in the Gospels, when John began his public ministry.  John became a public preacher at a spot along the Jordan River.  His message was simple – repent and believe.  He challenged people to make a decision to change and live a better life.
Part of his method was to do something so that the people would remember their new dedication.  So he baptized them. He took them into the Jordan River and plunged them into the water.  It was a baptism of repentance.

As far as we can tell Jesus often visited this place where John preached.  The Gospels indicated that John knew Jesus and believed in him as the Messiah.

In one story John pointed Jesus out to his disciples.  So, we can assume Jesus spent some time near where John preached.  They may have even spent some time together.  I would love to have listened in on their conversations.

So, one day Jesus lines up with the people who were coming to John seeking baptism.  Many have tried to imagine why Jesus did this. Possibly, in humility, Jesus wanted to make it clear that he wanted to be united even with sinners.  This would be furthered verified when he suffered and died for all sinners.

John was rather surprised when Jesus came before him; we are told that John tried to prevent Jesus from accepting his baptism.  “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me.”

Jesus tells him, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”  So John baptized Jesus.
As it turned out, this became a spectacular, miraculous moment. As Jesus came out of the waters of the River Jordan, a voice is heard – “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”  The voice of God the Father blesses Jesus and, in a touching, loving moment, speaks this supporting, loving praise.

John the Baptist, speaking of Jesus, tells us that he will come baptizing with the Holy Spirit.  For us, sacramental Baptism brings us new life, brings a new moment in our lives. As we are blessed through the Holy Spirit, our life takes on a new value. We are called to bring the message of our Savior to our world as members of Christ’s Church.

I have often thought about that day when John baptized Jesus.  Can you imagine being there?

Imagine noticing Jesus in the line of us sinners before John the Baptist. I guess I would have hope that Jesus would give a talk to the rest of us. Instead he humbly joins us in approaching John the Baptist to be baptized.
It is obvious to me that he is far more innocent than we are.  Yet, he calmly walks with us – no explanations – just strongly supporting us, walking with us, that we may all live out our new decision in the Lord.

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