Seeing Jesus coming towards him, John said, ‘Look, there is the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. This is the one I spoke of when I said: A man is coming after me who ranks before me because he existed before me. I did not know him myself, and yet it was to reveal him to Israel that I came baptising with water.’ John also declared, ‘I saw the Spirit coming down on him from heaven like a dove and resting on him. I did not know him myself, but he who sent me to baptise with water had said to me, “The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and rest is the one who is going to baptise with the Holy Spirit.” Yes, I have seen and I am the witness that he is the Chosen One of God.’
There are important moments in a person’s life which change the direction or character of that life. There are moments of choice and celebration or of destiny or tragedy, moments which change our lives into ‘befores’ and ‘afters’. The baptism of Christ is such a moment. It is a time when his identity is once again revealed and his commitment to his mission is chosen and celebrated after thirty years of hidden growth. He had matured. He had grown in wisdom and in obedience to the will of his Father.
At his baptism the vocation of Christ is revealed as that of the Suffering Servant. He is to be the Messiah that has been revealed in the Scriptures, the Suffering Servant foretold by Isaiah. Christ is to be both King and servant. He announces a kingdom yet he comes on earth to serve God and to lay down his life before and for his people. He is revealed as champion of the poor; preacher of justice and mercy; teacher of love and faithfulness and restorer of life to a people in thrall to sin and in slavery to death.
Each of us is grafted onto Christ through our own baptism. The common water of baptism ensures that we all share in the promises of Christ and of the Gospel. We remind ourselves of this fundamental sacrament and commitment when we sprinkle ourselves, or when we renew our vows or profess our faith and particularly in the rites of baptism itself and in the sprinkling of Holy Water at the funeral rites. We try to unfold our baptism in the course of our discipleship and to take the privileges and the responsibilities of the sacrament seriously in the context of the society we live in.
The call of Christ invites us to renew our own free choice and to decide our mission once again. The commitment of marriage or of priestly life are not chosen just once and then forgotten except on anniversaries. The hard decisions and choices have to be renewed by most people over and over again in the decisions we make and in the way we behave day to day. To love God is to keep the commandments and to know God’s favour is to be true to our freely-chosen commitments and promises. There is no point in professing faith and living otherwise.
True Christian love requires commitment and humility. It requires suffering sometimes and the taking of the path of service. It requires abandoning all that is not in accord with the commandments and the teaching of the Scriptures. It challenges us to the constant renewal of a freely-chosen commitment to follow Christ so that we too may one day hear the call of our common Father, ‘This is my beloved one in whom I am well pleased’.