What does one do in the face of so much human suffering? Observe Pope Francis, and keep in mind the way of Jesus. If we approach the baptism of Jesus from our experience of Christian baptisms in churches (or even in a creek or river, for that matter), we will miss what Jesus is doing. When Jesus went down into the Jordan River to be baptized by John, he was not performing a religious ritual in a church or synagogue. On the contrary: Jesus was standing in complete solidarity with the spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically ill. By being baptized by John “for repentance from sins,” Jesus was deliberately and courageously standing shoulder to shoulder with men and women known to be sinners. Of course the good people mocked and chided Jesus for his baptism. He was in effect declaring, “I am a man with and for sinners, and as a human being, also in need of divine grace and favor.”
On this feast of the Baptism of our LORD, I invite all of us to reflect on the inner attitude of Jesus as he lets himself be identified with us sinners. Consider that he stood in a muddy river with human beings deemed “untouchable” by the morally upright and holy ones. In the spirit of Pope Francis, who understands Jesus well, each of us can ask: “How do I live out my calling as a servant of God? How do I seek to serve God’s people? In what ways do I carry the gospel of joy into the world? Am I willing to leave my own comfortable beliefs and ways of living and venture forward, bringing Christ to the disadvantaged, and finding Christ in them, and serving Christ in them?” Take to heart these words from Pope Francis in his “Gospel of Joy: “The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience.” What are we doing to share the sufferings of others?