Among us, people, signs are very much part of our interaction.
A wink, a scowl, a frown, a shaking of the head – all of these give a message.
But to be truly meaningful, such signs need to be interpreted.
If not, then the message can be either lost or misunderstood.
Today’s gospel text, on the Feast of Jesus’ Baptism (Luke 3:15-16,21-22), offers us many signs indeed.
People coming to John to be baptized is the sign of their repentance from their sins.
John speaks of the untying the sandal straps; this was a sign of unworthiness as it referred to the work of a slave.
The fire mentioned by John is a sign of purification.
The dove descending from above is interpreted as the sign of God’s Spirit.
But no matter how meaningful these signs may appear, they are weak and poor in comparison to THE SIGN not yet mentioned.
This exceptional SIGN is that of Jesus himself being baptized.
He goes down into the water, just like everyone else.
Even when John the Baptist objects, Jesus insists to be treated like all others (Matthew 3:3-15).
What does this say?
What does it mean?
During the Christmas season just ended, we have remembered the name given to Jesus: God-with-us.
Jesus is indeed God-with us, but today, we are given to understand that Jesus is also one-of us.
And the author of the letter to the Hebrews dares to say that Jesus was
“in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin” (Hebrews 4:21).
A close proximity, you may think.
More still: an amazing identity – this is the true meaning of the Incarnation.
Born like all of us, he will die as we will all do, to make us what he is:
true children of God!
Already in the 2nd century, Saint Irenaeus was teaching this extraordinary truth to the early Christians:
“The Son of God became the Son of man so that man might become a son of God”.
Ours is also an amazing identity!
Note: Another reflection is available on a different theme in French at: https://image-i-nations.com/fete-du-bapteme-du-seigneur-annee-c-2022/