In the year 300 AD, the Eastern Church marked the Epiphany and the Baptism of Jesus on January 6th, while the Western Church acknowledged this celebration in the Liturgy of the Hours. Following the liturgical reforms in 1969, the Feast date was shifted to the Sunday after Epiphany in the Western Church.
When Epiphany falls outside January 2-8, the celebration is observed on the Sunday within that period, and the Baptism of the Lord is commemorated on the subsequent Monday. This Feast signifies the conclusion of the Christmas Season, leaving a symbolic “window” open until February 2nd for the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, also known as Candlemas.
Jesus’ Baptism Along the Jordan
The Gospel account narrates Jesus’ journey from Galilee to the Jordan for baptism by John the Baptist. Rather than immediately declaring His messiahship, Jesus, in solidarity with sinful humanity, joins the crowd seeking baptism. This deliberate choice reflects a consistent pattern in Jesus’ “itinerary of salvation,” emphasizing His willingness to be with and risk Himself for those marked by the wounds of sin.
John the Baptist’s Dilemma
Witnessing Jesus’ approach, John the Baptist expresses bewilderment, questioning the appropriateness of baptizing the one whom he acknowledges as mightier than himself. Similar to Peter’s discomfort in other biblical instances, this reaction reveals human discomfort at witnessing Jesus’ apparent vulnerability.
The Significance of “Allow It”
Despite John’s reservations, Jesus insists, emphasizing the importance of allowing certain events to unfold. What appears abnormal is integral to God’s plan, fulfilling righteousness and demonstrating a justice that unites, breaks barriers, and responds to humanity’s needs with love, mercy, and forgiveness.
The Heavens Open
The pivotal moment comes as the heavens open, the Spirit descends, and the Father’s voice declares Jesus as His beloved Son. This divine affirmation seals Jesus’ mission and signifies the reconciliation between humanity and God. In this act of justice, the separation is annulled, echoing the Spirit’s presence at the dawn of creation.
A New Beginning in Love
God’s delight in Jesus, as expressed in the voice from heaven, echoes in every human being as we bear the image of God. Jesus’ arrival heralds a new chapter in salvation, inviting humanity to recognize life as a gift of love and to live within this love. The Baptism of Jesus becomes a profound symbol of justice, unity, and the transformative power of divine love.