11 January 2009 - Fr Terry Tastard:

 There is something enormously moving about the picture of Jesus going down into the waters of the Jordan. It is an embrace of his mission. It is an entry into the world of human suffering. It is a sign of his humility, for John the Baptist regarded Jesus as supremely holy. Accordingly, Jesus had no need of baptism. But he enters into the waters as a sign of his solidarity with humankind. He will be with men and women in their weakness, so that they may become strong. He will be with them in their suffering, so that he can bring them healing. He will be with them in their lostness, so that he can help them to find the way.

The baptism also points forward, to the whole life of the Church. Jesus enters into the life of the world so that we can, in our turn, enter deeply into his life. Hence John the Baptist's prediction that Christ will baptise with the Holy Spirit. Christ has come among us as God's living presence among us, so that we, in all the perplexities of life, can have the grace of the Holy Spirit to encourage us and guide us. The waters of the Jordan become a river that flow through every font, and through it every generation has the opportunity to come to know Christ and to share his life, because this is the first of the sacraments and the beginning of sacramental life.

Life never seems completely free of conflict. There are misunderstandings and differences in places of work, in families, in communities. More seriously, from time to time we become aware of forces which threaten to undermine all that is good. Jesus in stepping into the waters of baptism showed his willingness to engage with this sinfulness of the world. In his whole life, his ministry, his teaching, his death and resurrection, he wrestled with and overcame the sources of sin and conflict. When we find ourselves struggling with the same things, we need to reflect, perhaps, that this is our baptismal calling. We are joined to Christ in baptism, and we therefore join him in the struggle for good against evil, for truth over against lies, for holiness against sin.

And if we feel sometimes that the struggle is hard, we need to remember what St John tells us in the letter we hear from him today, that in Christ the victory is already assured. Our translation from the Jerusalem Bible with its antiquated language of begetting rather obscures the point. Here is the New Revised Standard Version (1 John 5.4-5): Whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith. Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?' We shared not only his death in baptism, but also his resurrection

Fr Terry Tastard is Parish Priest of Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church, Brook Green, London W6.

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