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Father Muench Says...

The Baptism of Jesus

January 10, 2024

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

The liturgy of the Feast of the Baptism of Jesus by St. John the Baptist ends the Christmas Season celebration. The liturgical celebration of the Baptism of Jesus is the beginning of our Catholic Church’s time when we consider the public ministry of Jesus in the Scriptures that are read at Mass. The Church leads us as we again consider the public ministry of Jesus and are drawn closer in our relationship with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

I realize that you have heard the Baptism of Jesus story many times. Today I would like to again think of this story and discover our place in the story. St. John the Baptist is our teacher and preacher. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, he came to recognize his vocation in life and dedication: he was to prepare our world for the coming of Jesus. St. John the Baptist leads us to the way of finding the public ministry of Jesus.

St. John the Baptist challenges us and challenged all those who listened to him speak to live a better life, a transformed life, changing what must be changed. St. John the Baptist wanted those people who heard him and accepted his word to remember that day, and so he would take them into the river, the river Jordan, and baptize them.

Jesus came to be baptized by St. John the Baptist. The Gospel of St. describes this testimony of St. John the Baptist: “I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from the sky and remain upon him. I did not know him but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, on whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit. Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.” (John 1:32)

On that day, Jesus came along and joined the crowd listening to St. John the Baptist. He then joins the line of those who are ready to change their lives, ready to dedicate themselves to personal conversion. This is Jesus, the Son of God, free from sin, who humbly accepts a place with those seeking forgiveness of sins and baptism from St. John the Baptist. Jesus wanted St. John the Baptist to recognize him. At the same time, Jesus wanted to demonstrate that he would always stand in support of those who were seeking a new life, a better life.

I believe that each time I minister as a priest confessor, celebrating the Sacrament of Penance, Jesus joins in the line of those coming to confess, standing in support of each one as they come seeking the forgiveness of sin. Jesus comes ready to help them dedicate themselves to a new life, a better life. I believe that the Lord is also there to give his support to each priest confessor, giving them the right words so they can bring God’s love and forgiveness to each penitent. The support of the Lord Jesus to each priest may help bring the wisdom and love of God to lead them to make their life ever new – that they may truly live a better life.

St. John the Baptist and Jesus were cousins and about the same age – near 30 years old. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, St. John the Baptist came to realize that it was Jesus who was the long-awaited Messiah. St. John’s Gospel tells us another St. John the Baptist story. St. John the Baptist was standing with two of his own disciples. We are told: “As John the Baptist watched, Jesus walked by. John the Baptist said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God.’ The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus.”

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