Baptism of JesusThis feast marks the beginning of the public ministry of Jesus. When describing this ministry Jesus has said that he has come to do the will of the Father and that his mission is to sinners. At Baptism we are clearly reminded that we are, all of us, sinners and we need to be saved by Jesus. When he came Jesus did not wait on the bank of the Jordan until the sinners were perfectly washed, He went into the muddy waters to be with them, to identify with them, to be, in a sense, one of them.

Often we are asked why did Jesus need to be baptised at all; it was not because he needed to be cleansed; not because he needed to be initiated into the people of God; it was yet another way for Jesus to show himself to us as being truly human. He is being true to his name, Jesus: saviour of the sinner: not a messiah sent to gather the perfect people into an elite club.

A lovely story from the life of Saint Pope John XX111 illustrates something of what Jesus did at the Jordan. Pope John was visiting the Regina Coeli prison in Rome. But when he saw the sad and broken prisoners before him he felt a lump in his throat and he was unable to deliver the speech which he had prepared. Eventually he began to speak to them from the heart and said ‘Men, I have come here today to put my eyes into your eyes.’ This had an extraordinary effect on the prisoners. Years later one of the prisoners in an interview on TV described how he had been liberated that day. 

Saint Pope John XX111 had stepped into the river of the prisoners’ condition and reminded us of the way that Jesus stepped into the river of our human condition and freed us from all that is not of God.