Baptism of the Lord, Cycle A
Is 42:1-4, 6-7; Acts 10:34-38; Mt 3:13-17
The first thing that comes to mind when we consider this feast, is the question, “Why does Jesus have to be baptized?” Even John the Baptist asked that same question: “I ought to be baptized by you and yet you come to me?” The answer of Jesus was, “… it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Here “righteousness” refers to the decree of the Father concerning Jesus’ work for our salvation: that Jesus is to be like us in everything except sin. He undergoes baptism because he would require it for all his followers: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” (Mt 28:19). He goes to the Jordan River not to be cleansed by its waters, but to sanctify the waters for our baptism. When in the time of Noah the world was full of sin, God cleansed it by water, so now Jesus decrees that the water is to cleanse all his disciples in the Name of the Blessed Trinity. At the moment of creation the ruah YHWH was hovering over the waters to effect the creation of beings, so now the Spirit hovers over the humanity of Jesus to effect the new man in all the baptized as a new creation. In our first reading (Is 42:1) the Lord says, “Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, upon whom I have put my Spirit.” Again, in the second reading (Acts 10:38) Peter declared, “… after the baptism…God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power.” The water and the Sprit hovering over the humanity of Jesus was a preparation for our own baptism, the water and the Spirit on our humanity cleansing us of sin and incorporating us into Jesus. In the Gospel we read, “The heavens were opened.” St. Mark would say, “The heavens were rent,” (napunit), which is more meaningful. When we say “opened” it can be closed; but when it is “rent” (napunit) there is no closing, it will remain open and there will always be a passage between heaven and earth. Therefore, from the time Jesus was baptized, the stairway between heaven and earth has always been accessible, there was always an opening for grace to flow upon us and our prayers to go up to the throne of God. Then the voice of the Father is heard, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” This voice we hear again at the Transfiguration where clearly Jesus manifested his divinity. God the Father himself claimed Jesus as His Son. (It must be noted that, even today, enemies of the Catholic Church claim that the Gospels do not claim that Jesus is God.) Clearly, two times in the Gospel God the Father claimed that Jesus is his Son. Then we note that in this event the Spirit of God manifested himself physically in the form of a dove. God showed himself clearly as the Blessed Trinity: the Father in the Voice, the Son in the human Jesus, and the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove, all three perceptible to the senses. Notice how God condescended to our human nature, to be perceived by us in our human way.
In summary, first, we noted that the baptism of Jesus was in preparation for our own baptism; second, that the heavens have been opened for the communion between heaven and earth; and third, God revealed himself to us as Three Persons in One God. This event of the Lord’s baptism is, therefore, meaningful for our faith.
Contemplate: The Father says those words: “You are my beloved son/ daughter” over you, what feelings do they evoke in you? Would you prostrate in adoration, love and gratitude?