Baptism of the Lord

January 13, 2019

There is a story that is told of a machinist who worked years ago at the original Ford Motor Company plant in Detroit, Michigan. Over a period of years he had “borrowed” from the factory various parts and tools which he hadn’t bothered to return.


In time, however, the “forgetful” machinist experienced a Christian conversion and was baptized. The man took his baptism very seriously and became a devout Catholic. Shortly after his baptism, the machinist arrived at work with his pickup truck loaded with all the parts and tools he had taken from the Ford Motor Company over the years. He went to his foreman and explained that he never really meant to steal them and asked to be forgiven.


The foreman was so astonished and impressed by this act that he cabled Henry Ford himself, contacting the auto magnate while he was away visiting a European Ford plant. In his telegram the foreman described the entire event in great detail. Ford immediately cabled back his striking two line response: “Dam up the Detroit River. Baptize the entire Plant.”


Today we celebrate the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Jesus was 30 years old when he was baptized. Until yesterday we celebrated an infant Jesus. Today we celebrate an adult Jesus. That is why today’s feast marks the transition from the Liturgical season of Christmas to the liturgical season of Ordinary Time. Today is the last day of the Christmas season but also the first Sunday in Ordinary Time, although it is never celebrated.


The Baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist in the River Jordan is an important event in the life of Jesus. Jesus gets in line with all the others and is baptized. We are then told in the gospel that “heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.” Thus Jesus began his public ministry.


It was after the Baptism that Jesus fully realized who he was and what he must do. In the remainder of the Gospel we find Jesus preaching the kingdom, working miracles, and forgiving people their sins. But notice that God called Jesus the beloved Son before Jesus began his public ministry; before all the sermons and miracles and forgivenesses. God was well pleased with Jesus because of who he was, not because of what he did.


You and I were baptized as well. When you were baptized the heaven’s opened as well, and the Holy Spirit descended upon you, and God the Father said: “You are my beloved son or daughter, with you I am well pleased.” How do we know that? Listen to the words taken from the Rite of Baptism.


“We pray for this child: set him or her free from original sin, make him or her a temple of you glory, and send your Holy Spirit to dwell with him or her.”

“God the Father has welcomed you into his holy people.”

“My child, you have become a new creation.”

“This child has been enlightened by Christ.”

“This child is now called a child of God.”


In baptism we are all given the same name: Child of God. God is well pleased with each of us because of who we are, not because of anything we do or did. Remember most of us were baptized as infants so we really have done nothing. All babies can do is eat and you know what. But God loves us for who we are not for what we do.


In conclusion, like Jesus, our baptism is meant to be the beginning of our life of grace. In Baptism we too find the favor of God, and from the grace we are called to live and act like Jesus. To quote the rite of Baptism once again, “You have been enlightened by Christ, so you are to walk always as a child of the light.” Amen.

Sunday Readings

Isaiah 42:1–4, 6–7

Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased.


Acts 10:34–38

You know...what has happened all over Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached.


Luke 3:15–16, 21–22

John answered them all, saying, “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming.”