LECTIO DIVINA: Baptism of the Lord
Translated by Fray Hubert Dunstan Decena, OAR
Lk. 3:15-16, 21-22
A. Invoking the Holy Spirit
We invoke the Holy Spirit using the words of St. Augustine.
Come, Holy Spirit, by whom every devout soul, who believe in Christ, is sanctified to become a citizen of the City of God! (en. Ps. 45:8) Come, Holy Spirit, grant that we receive the motions of God, put in us your flame, enlighten us and raise us up to God (s. 128,4).
With the heart well disposed, with serenity, read slowly the following words, savoring them and allowing yourself to be touched by them.
The people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Christ. John answered them all saying, “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
Let us now meditate using the commentary of St. Augustine on these words of the Gospel according to St. Luke.
Thus, John was sent ahead to baptize the humble Lord. The Lord wanted to be baptized because of humility, not because he had any iniquity. Why was Christ the Lord baptized? Why was Christ the Lord, the Only Begotten Son of God, baptized? Investigate why he was born, and then you will find out why he was baptized. It is there you will find the road of humility, in which you cannot set out with proud foot; a road that, if you do not set out with humble foot, you will not arrive at the sublimity to which it leads. He who descended for you was baptized for you. Observe how little he became despite his being so great: Though he was in the form of God, he did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at. The equality of the Son with the Father was not plunder, but nature. In John, yes, it would have been plunder wanting to be considered the Christ. Thus, he did not deem equality with God a plunder. Since it was not a result of plunder, he was co-eternal with the eternal, who begot him. Rather, he emptied himself and took the form of a slave, that is, he took the form of man. Who, existing in the form of God, he emptied himself taking the form of a servant. He assumed what he was not without losing what he was. Remaining as God he assumed being man. He took the form of servant, and he became God-man, he, by whom in his divinity, man was created. Consider, then, what majesty, what power, what greatness, what equality with the Father; he arrived at putting on for us the servant’s form; also, notice the road of humility taught by such a great Teacher. That he should have wanted to become man is more worthy of mention than his will to be baptized by a man” (s. 292, 3).
We realize that, by the river Jordan, our God presents himself in his Trinity. Jesus arrived and was baptized by John, the Lord by the servant, an act whose purpose was to give us an example of humility. In effect, when John told him: I ought to be baptized by you, and you come to me? He replied, “Let it be so for now; for it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness,” he manifested that it is in humility where justice is fulfilled. Thus, once baptized, the heavens were opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in the form of a dove; then followed a voice from heaven: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Therefore, we have here the Blessed Trinity with a certain distinction of the Persons: in the voice, the Father; in the man, the Son; in the dove, the Holy Spirit. Surely, it was only necessary to remember it, since to see it is very easy. With all the evidence, therefore, and without room for scruple to doubt, this Blessed Trinity is being proposed, because Christ himself, the Lord, who comes to John in the condition of servant, is certainly the Son; it cannot be said that he is the Father or the Holy Spirit. It says: “Jesus came,” certainly he is the Son of God.As regards the dove, who can doubt? Or who can say: “what is the dove?” when the Gospel itself very clearly testifies to it: “The Holy Spirit descended on him in the form of a dove?” Similarly, as regards the voice, neither does some doubt exist that it was the Father, since it says: “You are my Son.” Therefore, we have the Blessed Trinity with the distinction of persons (s. 52, 11).
With the text, let us now pray from the depths of our heart. I suggest the following phrases and question that can awaken in you dialogue with God, and at the same time can give rise to affections and sentiments in your dialogue with God. Do not move to the next phrase or question if you can still continue dialoguing with God in one of them. It is not a matter of exhausting the list, but of helping you to pray with some points that better fit your personal experience.
- “You are my Son, the Beloved, the Favorite” (Lk.3:22).
- What does it mean that Christ is the favorite Son, the beloved of the Father?
- Since our baptism, we are sons of God. How can you apply these words of the Gospel to your own life? (to be the favorite and beloved son of the Father?)
- “If you do not tread with humble foot the road of humility, you will not arrive at the sublime heights to which it leads” (s. 292, 3).
- Why is humility necessary in your life?
- How can you be more humble?
I propose to you some points for affective interior contemplation. Once again you do not need to follow all of it, rather you can choose what fits your personal experience.
- Contemplate Christ coming down the river to be baptized. Contemplate his humility. Ask that you also can be humble.
- Contemplate how God pronounces these words: “You are my Son, the beloved, my favorite” on Christ, but also on you. Verify the sentiments and affections that arise in your interior upon hearing interiorly these words pronounced on you.
Think of everything that you can share with those around you about the experience you had with God, especially about being the beloved and the favorite of the Father. The following points can help you as guide to share with your community the experience of the lectio divina on the text:
- What have I discovered about God and about myself in this moment of prayer?
- How can I apply this text of Scripture at this moment of my life? What light does it give me? What challenges does it put before me?
- What concrete commitment does this text of Scripture ask of me in my spiritual life, in my community life?
- What has been my predominant sentiment during this moment of prayer?
G. Final Prayer of St. Augustine
Turning towards the Lord:
Lord God, Father Almighty, with pure heart, as far as our littleness permits, allow us to give you our most devoted and sincere thanks, begging with all our strength from your particular goodness, that by your power you may drive away the enemy from all our thoughts and actions; that you may increase our faith, govern our mind, give us spiritual thoughts, and bring us to your happiness, through your Son Jesus Christ, our Lord, who with you lives and reigns, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, forever and ever. Amen (en. Ps. 150:8).
Towards the praise and love of the one God (doctr. Chr. 2, 38, 57)