Jesus was born in turbulent times.
The Romans occupied Israel.
There were always tensions between the occupiers and the occupied.
Some accommodated the Romans and their religious practice grew weak.
Others did their best to remain faithful and observe the tiniest letter of the law.
Many knew that they had drifted away from their Covenant with God.
The problem was they were not sure that they could be forgiven.
In this context.... John the Baptist inspired by the Holy Spirit appeared proclaiming a baptism of repentance.
His message was simple and direct, the forgiveness of sin is possible... come and be baptized.
Encouraged by the chance of a fresh start, people came in droves to be washed in the living waters of the Jordan and be forgiven.
When you think about it the symbolism is obvious, water has always been used to wash or purify something.
By stepping into the water and completely submerging oneself
a person was saying I am sorry for every possible sin I have committed.
Just like there is not a dry spot on my body there is not an area of my life that I don’t want to clean.
And so the message of John the Baptist was
look into your heart realize your faults and step into the water.
When people came to be baptized by John they acknowledged their brokenness and enjoyed God’s mercy and forgiveness.
The first step in being forgiven has to be admitting that you did something wrong.
Then all of a sudden Jesus came to be baptized...
Why did He who was without sin feel drawn to John the Baptist’s ministry of forgiveness?
There are lots of interpretations but the one I read the most was that with His Baptism Jesus took upon himself all of our sins.
Humanity washed away it’s sin in the Jordan but Jesus, God’s son took our sins upon himself.
In a sense the baptism of the Lord was a prefiguring of his sacrifice on the cross when He paid the price of our sins.
What does all of this have to do with us... we live in turbulent times.
Our world our country our communities are becoming more and more polarized and violent and secular.
Many of us know that something has to change.
And it seems to have become a national pastime to look at others and point out what’s wrong with them.
It is so easy to point the finger at others and say they have to change.
Hardly any of us admit that we might have to change.
Hardly any of us admit that there are things in our lives which need to be healed or forgiven.
You know years ago when I was growing up we were taught everything was a sin and there was a lot of fear and anguish.
After the Council in reaction the pendulum swung to the other side and nothing was a sin.
And the Church contributed to this confusion...
How could eating meat on fridays be a sin and all of a sudden not be a sin?
Today for many or maybe even most the practice of confession has fallen away.
If John the Baptist came today very few would come to Jordan to be forgiven, because so many of us don’t understand that we need it.
Sometimes people come to confession and say gee it’s been several years.. and I can’t think of any sins...
How far the pendulum has swung.
The feast of the Baptism of our Lord and the Ministry of John the Baptist should remind us all that each and everyone of us needs forgiveness.
The feast of the Baptism of our Lord should also call us to deeper understanding of our own sinfulness and need for healing.
Today’s feast should remind us that forgiveness is indeed possible and challenge us to seek it out.
If we want the world to be a better place we have to start with ourselves.
Let’s stop pointing each other’s faults, lets examine our own conscience and walk to the Jordan seeking God’s mercy and God’s healing.
Jesus wants to forgive us.
With His baptism He shows us that He is willing to carry our brokenness and forgive our sins.
All we have to do is acknowledge them and confess them.