No Special Treatment
Feast of the Lord’s Baptism

Antonio P. Pueyo
Reproduced with Permission

One well-known bishop who is now in his seventies was a strong man thirty years ago.

God’s way is the way of humility.

In his spare time, he preferred to do manual work in the garden near his house. He liked to work with stones and was very good in making stone walls. One day while he was at this task a lady arrived in a nice car. Being one of the leaders in the women’s religious club she wanted to meet the new bishop and she brought some gifts in a heavy sack. Thinking that the bishop was the gardener, she asked him to carry the sack. He dutifully obeyed and lifted the sack on his shoulders. You can imagine what happened after the introductions.

This is in contrast to some stories that oftentimes are in the news. Typical in these stories would be quarrels that end up with a character saying, “You don’t know me?” Threatening words are then spoken because a man felt he was insulted for not having been recognized as a “big man”. Some people have a misplaced sense of self-importance. They want to be treated in a special manner just because they have money, power, and status. They feel bad when they are not immediately recognized. These are the kinds of people who like to have vanity car plates which tell the whole world their office, rank and title.

The Lord Jesus did not seek special privileges. The Gospel today tells the story of Jesus blending with the people in the crowd who were seeking baptism from John (Mk. 1:7-11). John’s baptism was a sign of repentance. It was meant for sinners who wanted to reform their lives. Jesus did not need to be baptized by John. John even protested, “I need to be baptized by you, and then you come to me?” (Mt. 3:14). This act of Jesus symbolized his mission of being the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29). Although free from sin, like a sacrificial lamb, he would undergo the consequences of sin -- suffering and death.

St. Paul describes Jesus as one who divested Himself of all privileges. “who though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:6). What a contrast with some people who want to emphasize their own importance and who seek and expect special treatment.

As we celebrate today the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, we are once more reminded of the mystery of the Incarnation. Jesus the Son of God joined the human condition not just by being born in Bethlehem and growing up as an ordinary layman in

Nazareth. He consciously embraced his mission of solidarity with sinful humanity at his baptism in the Jordan. At the beginning of his public life, he took the first steps that would lead to Calvary and the resurrection. He descended among us, even to hell, so that we can ascend to God. Thus, is God’s love.

This deep theological insight has its practical consequence. If God humbled Himself by coming among us as a man, so should we learn to be humble. The natural inclination is to insist on our own importance and to seek special privileges for ourselves. We want to be exempted from falling in line, from normal procedures, and even from traffic rules. We want to go around laws and regulations. We glory at the connections we have in high places who can facilitate matters for us. These are not the ways of Jesus.

Action starter: Go down among the poor, the least, the last, and the lost.