Today the Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. The Gospel we hear today is St. Luke’s account of the event. Jesus goes down to the Jordan, where John the Baptist is baptizing people for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus allows himself to be baptized by John, after which “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.'”
Why does Jesus allow himself to be baptized? He was sinless and thus had no need of the healing power of the ritual. Indeed, in Matthew’s account of the event (although not in the Luke account we hear today), John tries to argue with Jesus that it is John who should be coming to Jesus for baptism, not he other way around. But Jesus is insistent that John baptize him.
The answer has to do with the voice from heaven. In the words of one commentator, Jesus submitted himself to baptism “in order to invite us to share in his relationship with the Father announced from the heavens.”
St. Paul says that at our baptism, we are baptized into Christ. When we are baptized into Christ, we receive the same Spirit who descended upon Jesus from heaven. And just as God declared Jesus to be His beloved son, we are the beloved sons and daughters.
We too – each one of us – can hear God say to us, “You are my beloved; with you I am well pleased.”