After Epiphany, the Church teases forth into liturgical celebrations different manifestations of the Lord’s divinity, including His baptism by John in the Jordan. This is our Sunday celebration in the Ordinary Form, commemorated as well in the Extraordinary.
After His baptism, Christ went for 40 days into the desert to be tempted. During that same 40 days, the Baptist was tested through the interrogating embassy of the Pharisees. After their time of trial – indeed, the very next day (John 1:29) – Christ emerged from the desert and John, who had been questioned by the Jews about being the Messiah, pointed to Him: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” The next day after, John repeated his messianic cry: “Behold, the Lamb of God!”
Speaking of the Lamb, surely John had been reflecting on Isaiah and the Servant Songs which would have been intimately known by the Jews of the day. Isaiah describes “a lamb that is led to the slaughter … stricken for the transgression of my people” (53:7-8). Resonating in the call of the Baptist about the “Lamb, who takes away the sin” must be also the significance both of the Paschal lamb, as well as the morning and evening sacrificial lambs in the Temple, offered for the sins of the day and the sins of the night. John, as Christ’s disciple, would also taste something of fate of the Lamb, in bearing witness to Him.
After the 40 day fast and test, Christ returned to the Baptist and then immediately began to gather His disciples. “Come and see,” He said to the curious. So began His public, earthly ministry. However, at the end of His earthly ministry, Jesus gave a mission to the whole Church through His Apostles: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt 28:19-20).
Christ’s baptism was the final moment of His private life and the commencement of His public ministry. For us, His disciples, the connection between baptism and evangelical effort is strict. Not a single one of us is exempted from the duty.
Our own joyful comportment among loved ones or with strangers can be a first “Come and see!” Bear witness to the love who takes away our sins.
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