Ann Thomas tells this story of herself. She was at a garage sale with her friend Betty. Ann had just sorted through a tray of trinkets. Betty came up and asked, “Any luck?” “No!” said Ann. “It’s just a pile of junk. She stepped aside to let Betty see for herself. Betty took one look at the pile, picked up a tarnished old cross and said, “I can’t believe it. I’ve found a treasure! This cross is made of antique silver.” When Ann’s friend got home, she cleaned the cross and polished it. It was indeed a treasure. Ann ended the story saying, Betty and I both looked at the same cross. I only saw junk; Betty saw a treasure.” Later Betty’s seven-year-old son, Bobby picked up the cross, held it reverently in his hands, and looked at it for a long time. Suddenly he began to cry. “What’s wrong?” asked Betty. Bobby said, “I can’t help it. I was looking at Jesus on the cross.” Three people looked at the same cross. One saw junk, another saw a treasure; a third saw Jesus. – Mark Link in ‘Sunday Homilies’
This feast of the baptism of our Lord brings to a conclusion the Christmas season that we’ve been cele-brating, If we have carefully listened this Sunday’s readings, we will find a kind of recapitulation, a sum-mary of all that this marvelous, almost unbelievable feast means for all of us. First of all, we’re reminded again of the extraordinary truth that God, the God who is transcended above and beyond all of creation, this God who is the source of all being, has become one like us, fully human, in every way except sin.
However an unusual question can always bother us; i.e., what was the reason for Jesus to be baptized? This depends on what one thinks about his/her baptism, and there doesn’t seems to be any reason for Jesus to be baptized. Some people think it’s the event that makes one a Christian. I have asked people if they are Christ Followers and they’ll say, “Well, I was baptized when I was small, [or whatever age they were baptized] so I am Christian.” I further asked, well, being baptized when you were small is okay, but if you do not live the life of baptism would that make you real Christian? I think having baptized in the Church, becoming a child of God and not perceiving the value of the baptismal treasure, would be like the one who saw the treasure in the story as junk, because often that we do not realize that our baptism has made us part of the Church and adopted children of God, living the very life of God, the grace received through the first Sacrament of Bap-tism.
For the question “Why would Jesus be baptized?” John asked Jesus: “How is it that you come to me to be baptized? In fact, I should be baptized by you.” Jesus tells John, “Let it be like that for now so that we may fulfill the right order.” He doesn’t fully answer John, but he gives a hint because Jesus, though he is Son of God, wants to follow what he calls the right order. He wants to be fully identified with us, with humans, with those who are sinners, those who are marginalized, oppressed, pushed aside. In that crowd that came to follow John and be baptized, there were people of every class, every order, every nationality… as these are the people who see the real treasure in Christ. Jesus identified among us those who are sinners. In the same way becom-ing the Children of God by our baptism he wants us to identify with others who need God.
As we celebrate the baptism of Christ, it is a moment for us to review our own baptism and be humble enough to accept that we have not lived the promises we made to God. However, we need not feel hopeless for what we haven’t been doing. The Grace of the Merciful Father is sufficient for us to renew our baptism and contin-ue with a fresh beginning and promise Him our faithfulness. In that we will find the true value of our baptis-mal treasure.
Fr. Jacob Alvares, SAC.