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Jaime L. WatersDecember 16, 2021
Photo from Unsplash.

Today we hear Luke’s account of Jesus’ baptism. The surrounding passages can help to contextualize the Gospel and reflect on its significance as the birth of Jesus’ public ministry.

A voice cries out: In the desert prepare the way of the Lord! (Is 40:3)


Liturgical day
Baptism of the Lord (C)
Is 42:1-7 or 40:1-11; Ps 29 or 104; Acts 10:34-38 or Ti 2:11-3:7; Lk 3:15-22

What do you do to repent for your sins?

How does your baptism influence how you live?

Do you avoid and condemn corruption?

The beginning of Luke includes unique details about Jesus’ early life, including Jesus being swaddled and laid in a manger, his presentation in the temple, his growth “in wisdom and age and favor” before God and human beings. . At the beginning of Luke 3, the evangelist provides historical context, referencing  Tiberius, Pilate, and Herod respectively as emperor, governor and Galilean ruler at the time of Jesus’ adult baptism. Luke says that John the Baptist emerged during this period, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sin. 

Drawing on Isaiah, Luke quotes the prophet’s reference to a person coming from the wilderness preparing the way of the Lord (Is 40:3), an option for the first reading, and he reframes this prophecy in light of John the Baptist’s ministry before Jesus. In each of the Gospels, John’s role as predecessor is noted, and Luke goes farther by connecting John and Jesus as family members born of miraculous conceptions.

After introducing John, Luke describes crowds coming to be baptized and wondering about John’s significance. John clearly states that he is not the awaited Messiah but  preparing the way for him: “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming…He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

John’s role as herald and preparer is multifaceted. He preaches and performs baptisms so that people can repent for their sins, helping his community to be spiritually ready to encounter Christ and his ministry. This spiritual cleansing goes beyond the ritual act of baptism with water. John stresses that people must also live righteously and generously, sharing their goods with those most in need and avoiding all kinds of corruption (Lk 3:7-14). John is not simply a baptizer; he is a reformer who calls on his community to be attentive to how they live and treat one another. John’s focus on baptism and care for others shows the close relationship between these actions, and his preaching shows us the implications of Christian baptism and discipleship. It’s not simply about being baptised; it’s about living justly and selflessly for the sake of others.

Why is Jesus baptized? Jesus is our model, so his baptism establishes a pattern for initiation into Christian faith not only through renunciation of sin but also through a public declaration and commitment to mission and concern for others. In each of the Gospels, Jesus’ first public, adult action is his baptism which is followed soon after by the start of his adult teaching, preaching and healing ministries. As we celebrate Jesus’ baptism today, we are reminded of the implications of our own baptism as a sacrament that orients us toward mission and service to others following the model of Jesus.

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