The Feast of The Baptism of the Lord; Year B
1 John 5:1-9
Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ has been begotten by God; and whoever loves the Father that begot him loves the child whom he begets. We can be sure that we love God’s children if we love God himself and do what he has commanded us; this is what loving God is-keeping his commandments; and his commandments are not difficult, because anyone who has been begotten by God has already overcome the world; this is the victory over the world – our faith.
Who can overcome the world? Only the man who believes that Jesus is the Son of God: Jesus Christ who came by water and blood, not with water only, but with water and blood; with the Spirit as another witness-since the Spirit is the truth – so that there are three witnesses, the Spirit, the water and the blood, and all three of them agree. We accept the testimony of human witnesses, but God’s testimony is much greater, and this is God’s testimony, given as evidence for his Son.
The idea of God’s Grace is a difficult one to understand at times. For grace to be effective in our lives, we must be open to it – but that openness, that faith is itself a grace and gift from God. It is a bit like trust – we can only trust someone else when they demonstrate they have earned that trust; but for them to show that they need to trust us…but if no-one takes that first step, nothing changes. When it coems to grace and faith – God takes the first step.
That is the key to the first half of this passage from John’s 1st Letter – that God begot us and created us and shaped us, and it is because of Him that we have been given the gift of faith. Yes – we must accept that gift, and nurture it and work with it – we must “…so what he has commanded us…”, but that is not difficult because God provides what we need to do what he asks us.
And it is in Baptism that those seeds of faith planted – which is why Holy Mother Church highlights this passage today – on the Feast of the Lord’s Baptism in the River Jordan. It is one of the few events told in all 4 Gospels in similar ways and it is also one of the key events mentioned in the Bible that secular historians accept did happen.
Baptism is the Key to the Church and the Sacraments – without it, we are not fully united with the Church and cannot properly be called ‘a Child of God’. Baptism allows us to enter into God’s priesthood. So the question this Sunday is…so why was Jesus Baptised? He was already a Priest – he was THE priest. He was already, literally, the Son of God. He didn’t need the gift of Faith – he was one with God and so already believed? So why is His baptism important?
Well, part of the answer can be found in the second half of this Sunday’s 2nd Reading. This is the last section of the Letter, where the writer is dwelling upon Faith. He writes “…there are three witnesses [to Jesus], the Spirit, the water and the blood”. The Water here is the water of Baptism; the Blood is the blood of the cross; and the Sprit, the Holy Spirit who affirms Christ as God. Consider this when reading todays Gospel (Mark 1:7-11) where Jesus (the Blood) is still in the River Jordan after being Baptised (the water) and the Spirit descends on Him – all these things are a visible sign of Jesus’s divinity and place as the Son of God.
Jesus is Baptised because God moves first in Faith. We are baptised to cloth ourselves in God’s Grace; but Jesus was baptised to show us the way and institute our connection to him – for our own sake. And in doing so provide us with “God’s testimony, given as evidence for his Son“.