The Baptism of the Lord

Many years ago I was preparing to take a driving test. After a few months of learning and practising I passed the test. The examiner congratulated me and said: “now you are ready to learn how to drive”. That was a very clear message: I passed the test, but I still would have to improve my driving skills. I’ve taken the advice of that older and experienced man very seriously. Since then I’ve travelled more than a hundred thousand miles, always learning, correcting and improving my skills. I think I’m now quite an experienced driver, but I’ve never been overconfident.

The feast of the baptism of the Lord ends Christmastide and starts ordinary time in the liturgical year. It symbolised the passing of Jesus from his hidden life to his public activity. That was the new beginning. Jesus was revealed as the Son of God, sent by the Father through the power of the Holy Spirit. But that baptism was not the same as our own baptism, performed by the Church. That baptism might be compared to an official declaration of something that had existed before. It was like giving a name to a nameless being.

After that baptism, administered by John the Baptist, Jesus mentioned another baptism that he would have to encounter, namely his passion, death and resurrection. And this baptism is the source of our own baptism. When we were baptized we died with Christ and then rose with him to new life.

If we want to associate the baptism of the Lord with the sacraments, we should think about confirmation. In this sacrament we receive the Holy Spirit to enable us to start our public activity. Sometimes this sacrament is called the sacrament of Christian maturity. It should encourage us to seek and find what God’s will is for each of us, to seek and find what we should do as members of God’s people. Through the power of the Holy Spirit we should become visible signs of God’s love for the world and humankind. At the beginning of my sermon I mentioned the advice of my examiner. The sacrament of confirmation allows us to learn, correct and improve being a Christian. Even if we have become more experienced over the years since our confirmation, we should never be overconfident. There is always room for improvement, always opportunities to do things better.