Today the Church celebrates the Baptism of the Lord. We see that moment in Luke’s Gospel where John the Baptist has just baptized Jesus when “the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice comes from heaven and says, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
As Catholics, we believe that baptism is a sacrament. That it is more than just a symbolic gesture; that God actually does something when we’re baptized. He washes away our sins and imbues us with the Holy Spirit. Baptism leaves an indelible mark on our souls. Given this, many would ask the question, why would Jesus need to be baptized? After all, He had no sin. He certainly didn’t “need” to be baptized. Great question. When you think about it, Jesus didn’t really “need” to be born, did He? God could have chosen a completely different way to save us from our sins.
In Matthew’s account of the baptism of Jesus, John protests. But Jesus says, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” In essence, this was God’s plan, God’s will. And so it is the same for us. It is God’s will, it is in God’s plan that we be baptized. This is not something that is “optional.” It is not merely symbolic. As followers of Jesus, we follow His lead into the waters that change us forever.
Father, we thank you for the gift of our baptism. May we always live out our baptismal promises. Amen.