When Jesus is baptized by John the Baptist, John objects but Jesus responds by saying “Let it be so now; for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” (Matthew 3:15) In other words, we have first the baptism of Jesus and secondly, our baptism.
We know that the Greek word baptism means immersion. In his baptism Jesus, forgoing his divinity (Philippians 2:6-7) immerses himself into our humanity. Jesus’ baptism is his incarnation that takes away our sins and gives us the gift of becoming children of God.
In consequence, our baptism is our immersion into our humanity. It is our acceptance of being children of Adam and Eve, acknowledgement of our fallen state. It is a pre-condition for receiving the gift of becoming children of God.
I once met a priest who told me how he had overcome his problem with alcohol. His friends had tried literally for years to get him to seek help. But he always brushed it off, saying that he had no alcohol problem even though people noticed that he was walking around drunk all the time. One day, however, he accepted somewhat reluctantly their advice and had himself checked into an alcohol rehabilitation centre. Upon arrival, he began to ask himself “why me?” To which his fellow alcoholics responded by saying “why not you? This, he said, began his process of healing. Admitting your “condition” is a pre-condition for healing to take place.
Baptism is our incarnation, our immersion calling us to be fully human. Baptism is to be lived as a daily admission that we are “a fallen humanity in need of redemption”. How often do we live in denial of this reality? We often live a life of wishful thinking, pretending to be better than we are and brushing off our sins as not being very significant. No wonder there is no more need for “Confession”.
The feast of the baptism of Jesus should help us to revive our own baptism. Learning from Jesus’ humility, we are called to humbly acknowledge our human condition. Not condoning our sins, “righteousness is fulfilled”, that is, our sins and punishment are taken away and we will see that “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5) For Jesus, the Lamb of God, “by his full immersion into humanity – even unto death” gives us the gift of the resurrection, a new life that makes us his brothers and sisters, sons and daughters of God. Living daily the humble admission of our humanity fulfills in our life the prophecy of Isaiah “Behold my servant, … I have put my Spirit upon him, who will bring forth justice to the nations… to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.” (Isaiah 42)
Guido Gockel MHM