The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord brings Christmas Time to a conclusion and we will begin Ordinary Time in the Church’s liturgical calendar – so called because we “order” our weeks as we count them on the journey towards Lent. The Baptism of Jesus was traditionally celebrated on the same day as Epiphany, but over time the appearance of the Magi to worship the infant Jesus became the principal focus of that Feast and the Lord’s Baptism began to be celebrated the following weekend. The Feast was instituted as a separate liturgical celebration in 1955.
In Jesus’ first manifestation or appearance, the star led the Magi to Bethlehem and these representatives of the wider gentile world paid their homage to the new born King of the Jews. In his second manifestation, Jesus “in whom all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell” (Col 1:19) lays aside his divinity and offers himself for baptism in the Jordan by his cousin, John the Baptist.
After his baptism, the Incarnate Word, in perfect humility, Himself prays and an extraordinary manifestation occurs: the heavens open and the Holy Spirit descends upon him. The voice of the Father is heard announcing His Son. The beginning of Jesus’ public ministry is sanctified by an epiphany or appearance of the Trinity. The same Holy Spirit who descended on the River Jordan at Jesus’ baptism hovered over the waters at creation (Gen 1:2). In the Jordan Jesus has started a new creation. He is the second Adam who comes to reconcile the world to God: the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
As we bid farewell to Christmas for another year, we hear the Father’s voice telling us “This is my beloved Son” and commit ourselves to spreading the Good News which Jesus brings into the world.