Today’s Gospel tells of the first of three events that occur in preparation for Jesus’ preaching. In Mark 1:1-8, we find the appearance of John the Baptist in the Judaean wilderness preaching repentance to the masses, “preparing the way of the Lord.” Now growing up, I always had two thoughts when reading about John the Baptist. The first was, “Wow I wish I could be baptized by him like these men and women.” The second was, “why did Jesus get baptized by John?”
Why would Jesus, our Lord, humble himself as he did and allow someone mortal to baptize him with dirty river water? This seems radical to me, after all, shouldn’t the roles have been reversed? However, what his actions signify are quite beautiful. We know that Jesus would come to Baptize millions with the Holy Spirit (as found in today’s Gospel), but first, he found it necessary to have himself baptized in water. Why? Out of love for the people of Israel. Before he began to Baptize them with the Holy Spirit and create a new people of God, he first identified with the people of Israel. I find it beautiful that Jesus submitted to this river baptism purely out of love for his brothers and sisters. He knew to better reach his people, he first needed them to see him as one of their own. I imagine the reaction of people on the scene that day was quite moving who would expect to see the Messiah undergo exactly what you have?.
It is natural that we may wish we could have been present to be baptized by a man who goes by “the Baptist.” However, as moving as this experience may have been, we can rest assured that our own Baptism was powerful and significant on its own accord. As mentioned in the last line of today’s Gospel, we underwent Baptism with the Holy Spirit. We are the new people of God that Jesus established. So although it may have been an incredible thing to be in the river, baptized by John, we must embrace living in the reality of our own Baptism. In this, we are forgiven of all our sins, original and personal, made into an adopted child of God, incorporated into the Church, able to partake in the sacramental bond of the unity of all Christians, and given an indelible spiritual mark that signifies our belonging to Christ - unable to be removed by any sin or action. This can give us hope that the Lord is truly always chasing after us and calling us home. Now don’t get me wrong,I am sure that there were incredible effects that St. John’s Baptism had on the people of Israel, but the Baptism that we have received has answered all the needs of our heart and more than prepared us to embrace Christ. What more could we ask for from this sacrament?