The Baptism of Our Lord

Flannery O’Connor was an American writer who lived in the early 20th century. She was a catholic and being born in Georgia she lived in the Bible Belt in the Southern states of USA. She wrote a moving story called “The River.” One scene in the story is very similar to today’s gospel reading. There’s a little boy named Bevel. His parents are so involved in social affairs that they often leave Bevel with an elderly baby-sitter. One day the baby-sitter takes Bevel to the river, where a famous preacher is baptizing people. The baby-sitter presents Bevel to be baptized. The preacher takes Bevel and, while saying the words of baptism, plunges him under the water. When he pulls Bevel up from the water, the preacher looks him straight in the eye and says, “Now you count, boy! Before, you didn’t even count.” The majority of us here today were baptised as infants. Maybe most of us do not remember the day of our baptism, maybe we do remember the date,  the church we were baptised in,  the name of our godparents and maybe we remember the name of the priest, and we may even have a photo of our baptism. There is much more to baptism than this, at our baptism we bcome children of God, we become apostles and messengers. At our Baptism we were initiated into the mission of Christ. All religions and civilisations have their initiation ceremony. The Roman youth puts on the Toga Virilis (a white toga that roman boys were allowed to wear when they reached the age of 15); the Hindu youth puts on the Sacred Cord, and the Christian puts on the Baptismal Robe. Baptism is a sacrament and an important milestone in all our lives. Every christian is called to be a witness of Jesus Christ.  We all have a mission, we don’t have to go to some mission country to become a missionary, we don’t have to do something great; we just have to be ourselves,  and to do the best we can.  In today’s gospel, we see Jesus waiting in line for baptism,  even though he is God he does not jump the queue. Even if you are the number 1 tennis player in the world you still have to follow the rules. Jesus does not ask for privileges, he just wants to be like one of us. He received an important  mission from his Father, but God does not want him to be alone in this mission. He wants each one of us to accompany Jesus, as messengers and as witnesses. Sometimes we have to present our baptismal certificate to prove that we have been baptised,  but the real baptismal certificate is not a piece of paper, it’s a lifestyle, it’s the way we live, as a parent, as  a grandparent as a member of a parish community.  Every christian is called to leave the print of christ wherever they go;  no matter how weak we are, no matter how often we have failed,  no matter how unworthy we feel.  Jesus can always do great things through us.  As we contemplate the figure of Jesus before John  in the river Jordan,  let us ask to be his apostles,  and that we may never fail to be his messengers in our daily lives.