The Baptism of Jesus

If the word ‘righteousness’ doesn’t inspire good feelings within us, it is usually because we have experienced it modified by the word ‘self’. When so modified, it becomes a perversion of its very meaning. In essence, the word ‘righteousness’ refers to right relationship, firstly with God and, flowing from that, with other people. The self-righteous person actually has warped relationships with God and people. Pride deludes them into thinking they understand God and know how other people should live. Such righteousness does not led to love, but rather bludgeons like a blunt instrument.

In Jesus’ baptism by John we see the attitude on which true righteousness is built: humility. John was right, in a sense. He should not have been baptising Jesus. But Jesus was right, in a deeper sense. To achieve what he was to do, to reorder our relationships, both with God and others, he needed to show solidarity with us from the inside. In our flesh, he had to show humbly that he was God-with-us. In his baptism, he comes as a ‘sinner’ from the midst of the people. Later in the Gospel, he will be regarded, condemned and crucified as a ‘sinner’. He showed us this way of humility, so we would be prepared to humble ourselves before God and others.

When we are so humbled, we realize that we do not understand God. Indeed, far from it. We bow down in awe at the mystery of God. Even more, we are overwhelmed at the knowledge that we are the beloved of God, the ones in whom he delights. When we know this of ourselves, we recognise that it is true of others. God loves all, deeply, passionately, with delight. Sharing in the humility of Jesus then, we can hold ourselves on the edge of mystery, and there we are given the power to love as we have been loved.

Adapted from Renew International: PrayerTime Cycle A