Why Baptize Jesus (and babies too)?
We celebrate today the final Sunday that concludes the Christmas season: the Baptism of our Lord. This undoubtedly historical event created confusion in the early Christian community as it does for us. If baptism is for the sinner who needs to repent, why would Jesus, born without sin, seek baptism? People might get the impression that He too was a sinner. The simple answer is: so that He would be like us in all things but sin. He wanted to take His place squarely in the midst of ordinary human experience, even if that meant that some might be confused by His decision. But that was always His way; He continuously confused people with how He proclaimed the gospel. The people wanted a king. He preferred being a shepherd. They wanted mighty works and signs. He preferred the simple. Through His baptism, His true identity would be revealed, as the voice of God was heard, “You are my beloved Son; with You I am well pleased.” So why are we to be baptized; so that our true nature can be revealed.
When I was younger, I thought it was to “wash away” Original Sin (which it does) or else I would go to hell (which was never Church teaching). For us, the original sin of Adam and Eve is not so much a sinful act as it is a condition into which we are born, the condition of entering a world separate from God. This underscores Jesus’ mission: to reunite God and mankind. We baptize in Christ Jesus so as to begin to live in this reunited world, to live in God through Christ. We even baptize babies before they are able to acknowledge Jesus as Savior (something that later in life they will do in the sacrament of Confirmation) so that they too can begin to live and be raised in a family and community that follows the Lord. As baptism showed the world who Jesus truly was – the Son of God – baptism shows the world who we truly are – disciples of Christ.