Since taking office, one of the major themes of Pope Francis’ teaching has been the globalization of indifference. This has been a key idea in Evangelii Gaudium, Laudato si’, and most recently his 2016 World Day of Peace message, Overcome Indifference and Win Peace. Despite the fact that we are more and more interconnected, this human family seems unable or unwilling to take the steps necessary for real change. In his 2013 homily on the Italian Island of Lampedusa, he describes it this way:
The culture of comfort, which makes us think only of ourselves, makes us insensitive to the cries of other people, makes us live in soap bubbles which, however lovely, are insubstantial; they offer a fleeting and empty illusion which results in indifference to others; indeed, it even leads to the globalization of indifference. In this globalized world, we have fallen into globalized indifference. We have become used to the suffering of others: it doesn’t affect me; it doesn’t concern me; it’s none of my business!
To see the impact of a culture of this indifference, one need only look at the Jordan River, which is the scene of this weekend’s Gospel reading. Once a symbol of peace, purity and life, the waters that covered Jesus’s body bear stark witness to our indifference toward people and planet.
I remember vividly my first visit to the river. I expected such a famous and important river to be wide and full of life, like other great rivers I knew- the Hudson, the Charles, the Rhone, the Nile, or the Seine. What I saw, however was a murky stream with Israeli border patrols on the other side pointing weapons at my pilgrim group of Arab Christian youth.
For decades, the Jordan’s watershed has been depleted and polluted by the region’s industries. The impacts of these industries are clearly visible along the river and in the rapidly retreating shoreline of the Dead Sea. But it’s not just pollution. This source of life has been transformed into a highly militarized zone bordering Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Palestine and Jordan.
The Syrian Civil War and resulting refugee catastrophe has only made the situation worse. New refugee camps are taxing the region’s water supply and adding raw sewage and other pollutants to the river’s ecosystem The Jordan can now be described, according to a recent National Geographic article, as “a shallow, unimposing trickle of sludge, a murky body of water that is in danger of withering into nothingness.”
Today’s feast has much to say to the culture of indifference and detachment that allows such ecological and human destruction to take place. In the Gospel, we see Jesus participating in a very embodied ritual. It may seem strange that Jesus would seek baptism at all. But this act is very telling. Here again we see Jesus’s nature as both fully human and fully God. In immersing his body into the waters, it is clear that Jesus was not a spirit lacking physical form, as some docetic and gnostic Chritologies purported.
And this reveals something important about the nature of the incarnate God and the meaning of discipleship. In becoming human and interacting with water in such an intimate way, God is united with all people and all of creation (See Gaudium et spes. no. 22). In other words, our “God is not indifferent! God cares about humanity! God does not abandon us! 
As followers of the incarnate God, we cannot look away from the realities of the world. We cannot live in soap bubbles. This feast, coming at the end of the Christmas Season, invites us to develop an incarnational spirituality that can sustain us throughout the “ordinary time.” Such a spirituality cannot be indifferent to what is happening in the world. Just as Jesus “went around doing good” after his baptism (Acts 10:38), so too should we be a people “eager to do what is good” in the world (TI 2:14).
The Baptism of the Lord reminds us that Christmas is not a year-end celebration. It is a season of beginnings. Jesus’ Baptism, which marks the start of his public ministry and reminds us of our own baptismal moment, is a good transition, a gateway feast that invites us to witness to the mystery of the Incarnation in our daily lives throughout the year.
 Homily of Holy Father Francis on his Visit to Lampedusa. Rome: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 8 July, 2013. http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/homilies/2013/documents/papa-francesco_20130708_omelia-lampedusa.html
 Schwartzstein, Peter. “Biblical Waters: Can the Jordan River Be Saved?” National Geographic, February 22, 2014. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/02/140222-jordan-river-syrian-refugees-water-environment.