On Sunday after Epiphany, the Catholic Church celebrates the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River.


baptismIn the history of the Christian tradition (and thus it remains in the Eastern Churches), the Baptism of Jesus was celebrated together with the visit of the three magi. Christian tradition even added to the same feast the memorial of the first miracle Jesus performed in Cana when he turned water to wine (John 2). Only at a later period, in the West, was the feast of the visit of the magi (Epiphany) separated from the feast of the baptism. On the Sunday after the feast of the baptism, the Gospel about the miracle in Cana is read. These three events: the visit of the magi, the baptism and the miracle at Cana all reveal the identity of Jesus as the Messiah (Christ) of Israel, the savior of the world and the Son of God.

On the feast of the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan, the story of Jesus' baptism is read. The story appears in all four Gospels (the determining of which story is read is according to the liturgical year, Year A – Matthew, Year B – Mark and Year C – Luke). The baptism story marks the beginning of Jesus' public ministry. From the Jordan (and after the temptation in the Wilderness), Jesus returned to Galilee and began to gather the disciples, teach the crowds and heal the sick. At the Jordan, the Father points to the Son with the words: "You are my Son, my beloved" (Luke 3:22). Luke even points out that Jesus was about 30 years old at the time of the baptism.

John baptized the people as a sign of repentance for the pardoning of sins in order to prepare them for the coming of the Messiah. Jesus' baptism is identification with the entire people (and with us too). He is free of all sin and does not need to repent but he enters the water in order to be even more at one with us. The Spirit descended on him when he came up out of the water and thus we have the three elements of the revelation of God: the voice of the Father, the humanity of the Son and the life in the Spirit.

Let us pray that we might be faithful to the life and vocation we received in baptism.