After hearing the account of Our Lord’s baptism, we might be tempted to think that Our Lord and Saint John are simply going through a kind of social nicety or religious protocol. But for Our Lord and Saint John this moment goes much deeper than social custom or even religious ritual. John the Baptist recognises in Jesus the one for whom he has been preparing the way.
The coming of the Kingdom of God means restoring a world of right relationships among all people. And right relationships depend on everyone having a unique role to play in bringing about a better world. Our Lord knows that his own ministry must begin with John. The early Church recognised the activity of John the Baptist as inaugurating Our Lord’s public ministry. Saint Peter preaches to Cornelius and his household saying “I take it you know what has been reported all over Judea about Jesus of Nazareth, beginning in Galilee with the baptism John preached.” This is the way it had to begin, like a small pebble rolling down a hill, gaining momentum the more it travels. So it was with the beginnings of the Church.
Time and time again, Our Lord did what was necessary to spread the kingdom, whether or not it was socially acceptable or politically correct. His followers come to this awareness with more of a struggle. The Acts of the Apostles tells us of Saint Peter wrestling with the role of Cornelius, who represents the gentiles, the world outside Judaism. Finally, Saint Peter is able to say: “I begin to see how true it is that God shows no partiality; the one who fears God and acts uprightly is acceptable to him.”
The coming of the kingdom still challenges us to work at right relationships in our world. Let us pray today and every day that we may truly fear God and be judged worthy of the kingdom.