This Sunday’s Gospel reading is a little strange for two reasons:
First, the baptism of our Lord is observed in the liturgical calendar on the first Sunday after Epiphany.
Second, historically baptism is associated with Easter, not the onset of Lent.
So why are we hearing this now? I believe the biggest reason is to remind us that despite the strong emphasis we place during this season on self-awareness, personal spirituality, and our own moral decisions, this season is not about us. It is about Jesus Christ. Ordinary time, like Epiphany and especially Pentecost? Then we can talk about our role as the body of Christ. But this season is about what Christ, and his crucified body, gave to us. His baptism is often seen as the beginning of his earthly ministry, and in a few shorts weeks we will get to the end of it, scripturally speaking.
So while it isn’t wrong of us to continue to see Lent as a penitential time for us, our penitence is not the active agent in our spiritual life. It is the moment of which Jesus said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”