Why Is Christ Baptized?

Fr Vallee weighs in on Sunday’s gospel reading and tackles the question, Why is Christ baptized?

Augustine tells us: “Discover why he was born and you will discover why he was baptized. There, I mean to say, you will discover the way of humility” [Sermon 292, 3-4]. In the birth of Christ, we see the ultimate power of God as powerlessness. He was God, yet he became a human being. He emptied himself and took the form of a slave. He humbled himself. John is clear as to his unworthiness: “it is you who should baptize me.” This is a great confession of humility. Jesus is teaching us by this action. He is teaching us that humility is the way of perfection and the only path to true love. Jesus did not need to be baptized, he did not need to be born either. He performs both actions out of pure love and humility and not for any external reason. The truest things we do, we do purely out of love and not for any ulterior or practical motive. As Gabriel Marcel said, “If you know exactly why you love me, you do not love me.”


Humility is the way of our Lord. If you understand why Christ was born, you will understand why he was baptized. Arrogance is death — death to life, death to love, death to faith. Being a Christian does not mean you support Christ the way you would support a political candidate. Being Christian means you are like Christ. The way of our Lord is not the way of power and politics. Religion is not convertible to a political platform on the right or the left. The way of our Lord is the way of love and humility.

Entire homily and gospel reading are copied in full at end of post.

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Why is Christ baptized?

I. Why is Christ baptized?
Bishop Noonan tells the cute story of his preaching at a children’s mass. He asked the children why Jesus was baptized. One of the kids said, “to get his big sin forgiven.” Bishop Noonan said, “big sin, what big sin?” The little boy said, “Remember, he ran from his parent s, then he talked back to them.” It really is a fair question. Why exactly was Jesus baptized? First, the baptism of John is not the baptism of the Christian faithful, is not the sacramental baptism which Jesus will give to his Church. I mean being baptized does not illogically make Jesus Christ a Christian. On the other hand, Jesus Christ does not have sins that need to be forgiven So, why did Jesus get baptized by John at all? Actually many theologians have taken up this question. Thomas Aquinas gives us three reasons: first so that we would recognize Christ; second, to sanctify baptism; and third to persuade us to do penance. These are all good reasons but my personal favorite comes from Augustine.

II. Discover why he was born and you will discover why he was baptized
Augustine tells us: “Discover why he was born and you will discover why he was baptized. There, I mean to say, you will discover the way of humility” [Sermon 292, 3-4]. In the birth of Christ, we see the ultimate power of God as powerlessness. He was God, yet he became a human being. He emptied himself and took the form of a slave. He humbled himself. John is clear as to his unworthiness: “it is you who should baptize me.” This is a great confession of humility. Jesus is teaching us by this action. He is teaching us that humility is the way of perfection and the only path to true love. Jesus did not need to be baptized, he did not need to be born either. He performs both actions out of pure love and humility and not for any external reason. The truest things we do, we do purely out of love and not for any ulterior or practical motive. As Gabriel Marcel said, “If you know exactly why you love me, you do not love me.”

III. Father’s birthday party
There is a story of an old Irish pastor, not Bishop Noonan this time, who was celebrating his birthday. The children came to bring Father presents. Little Suzie came first. Her mother ran the local bakery. When Father saw the round box, he said, “ah Suzie darling, thank you for the lovely cake.” Suzie said, “Father, how did you know it was a cake?” Father said, “sure enough, Father knows everything.” Jose came up next. Jose’s mom was a seamstress. When Father saw the bulky package, he said, “Jose lad, I sure do thank you for the beautiful sweater.” Jose said, “Father how did you know it was a sweater?” Father said, “Father knows everything you know.” Finally Johnnie came up. Johnnie’s dad ran the local liquor store and Johnnie came up with a package that was a bit wet at the bottom. Father said, “Johnnie thank you for the lovely bottle of scotch.” Johnnie said, “Oh no, Father, it isn’t scotch.” Father said, “it’s not? Let me see it then.” Then he touched it and said to himself, “Maybe not scotch.” So, he said, “gin then, is it gin you have there?” Johnnie said, “No Father, not gin.” Father decided to give it one last try and smelled the liquid carefully. He said “Bourbon, is it a nice bottle of bourbon you have there for me?” Johnnie said, “no it’s not bourbon.” Father said, “I give up then.” Johnnie proudly announced. “It’s a puppy.” Humility is the way of our Lord. If you understand why Christ was born, you will understand why he was baptized. Arrogance is death — death to life, death to love, death to faith. Being a Christian does not mean you support Christ the way you would support a political candidate. Being Christian means you are like Christ. The way of our Lord is not the way of power and politics. Religion is not convertible to a political platform on the right or the left. The way of our Lord is the way of love and humility.
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Mark 1: 7 – 11
7 And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.
8 I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.
10 And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens opened and the Spirit descending upon him like a dove;
11 and a voice came from heaven, “Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased.”
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About Jorge Costales

- Cuban Exile [veni] - Raised in Miami [vidi] - American Citizen [vici]
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