Feast of the Baptism of the Lord
Embarrassed. Misunderstood. Soaked.
I imagine Jesus walking up to John, His cousin with whom He likely played, ate, and celebrated Jewish feasts. Meanwhile, people are gathered around to watch “Crazy John” preach and baptize one person after another.
What was Jesus thinking and feeling as He stepped into the water and motioned to John that he too would like to be baptized? What was John thinking and feeling as he looked back at his cousin – the man who caused him to smile, laugh, cry, and ponder? What was God up to with this guy? Why was Jesus wanting something He didn’t need?
John spent countless hours in the water baptizing, but this moment felt different. This moment was unlike any he would ever know since leaping in his mother’s womb when Jesus greeted Him from within Mary’s womb.
When did Jesus capture the attention of the bystanders? Was it at first glance or after the heavens were “torn open” with the sound of the Father’s voice? How did Jesus respond to both positive and negative attention? Did the water feel refreshing on a sunny day in the desert or did it feel chilly since the sky was grey and overcast? Like in the Garden of Gethsemane, did Jesus ask the Father if the cup of Baptism could pass him by?
Sometimes mysteries are so profound that no one can grasp their meaning. Even Jesus’ own cousin was unable to “unfasten or explain this mystery of God-made-man.” I’m sure John’s head was spinning with questions, but instead of seeking answers, he drew near to the Answer.
Though John didn’t understand, he obeyed by giving.
Though Jesus didn’t require baptism, he obeyed by receiving.
The Baptism of the Lord is the first Luminous Mystery. When we pray that decade of the rosary, we pray for the fruit of obedience. I honestly struggle with obedience sometimes. I like rules... if I agree with them. The last year has been full of crazy unknowns as we all wait for answers. As we wait, we are called to act in accordance with God’s will even when we don't understand. Though the people watching Jesus' baptism did not understand what was happening, the Messiah was standing in their midst loving and saving them. God is with us, so we can always have peace in obeying His loving will of salvation.
In this new year, I have set out to read the whole Bible through the framework of Jeff Cavin’s Bible Timeline. I’m astonished that the Bible in a Year Podcast with Fr. Mike Schmitz is topping the charts as the #1 podcast!! It is good news, my friends, when a Catholic priest reading Scripture is what people find when searching popular podcasts!
Ten days into this grace-filled endeavor, I am reminded of how vast and consistent God’s plan is throughout history. God loves and God saves. Always. Just not always in the way we expect.
In Genesis, we see the gift of water in the infamous stories of Creation and Noah’s Ark.
“Since the beginning of the world, water, so humble and wonderful a creature, has been the source of life and fruitfulness. Sacred Scripture sees it as overshadowed by the Spirit of God” (CCC 1218).
As God created in love and for love, He called all creation “good.” Water would fill the earth and all creatures living upon the earth. Water connects us all. The blessing over the baptismal waters during the Easter Vigil each year reads, “the waters of the great flood you made a sign of the waters of Baptism, that make an end of sin and a new beginning of goodness” (CCC 1219).
This goodness can be found in the connection between the Spirit hovering when the waters were created and the dove hovering when the waters were cleansed and renewed after the flood. The Baptism of Jesus marks a new beginning of the world through the Spirit and invites us to be cleansed in our own baptism.
The beginning of something requires the end of something else. Death is a prerequisite for new life.
“If water springing up from the earth symbolizes life, the water of the sea is a symbol of death and so can represent the mystery of the cross. By this symbolism, Baptism signifies communion with Christ's death” (CCC 1220).
After we finish reading Genesis, we jump into Exodus. Water meant freedom as the Israelites crossed the Red Sea and the Jordan River to enter into the Promised Land. This was neither a short or easy journey. Sometimes we are asked to do hard things and endure long trials.
We know this feeling well as we have walked through 2020 and the first week or so of 2021. The world often feels more like the Great Flood than the Garden of Eden. We know that. We experience pain, woundedness, and loss. We fall short and others disappoint us. We lose others we love. Our plans and dreams are detoured or canceled.
There is no Resurrection without the Cross and no Cross without the Resurrection. It is in Baptism that we experience a death to self in order to discover new life in Christ.
We have to empty ourselves of anything that is taking up unnecessary space.
Bishop Barron poses the idea that the Baptism of the Lord was embarrassing. Those who came to John the Baptist were repenting. Everyone thought Jesus was the sinless Lamb who takes away the sins of the world so why is He seeking baptism? He writes, “Before ever a word passes Jesus’ lips, he is teaching, in fact communicating the heart of the faith… God lays aside his glory and humbly joins us in our sinfulness, standing with us, assuming our burden, even if he himself had no sin.”
Our Lord voluntarily submitted himself to the baptism of St. John, intended for sinners, in order to "fulfill all righteousness." Jesus' gesture is a manifestation of his self-emptying. The Spirit who had hovered over the waters of the first creation descended then on the Christ as a prelude of the new creation, and the Father revealed Jesus as his "beloved Son. (CCC 1224)
Though we are faced with many temptations to be prideful, attached, and ashamed, Jesus invites us to be humble, detached, and confident in our identity as God's beloved child. He invites us to empty our hearts, minds and lives with anything that is not pleasing to the Father. Becoming empty of anything that doesn’t give God glory provides ample space to be filled with all that does!
We need to always keep our eyes on the goal, our main mission as Christians.
“All the Old Covenant pre-figurations find their fulfillment in Christ Jesus. He begins his public life after having himself baptized by St. John the Baptist in the Jordan. After his resurrection Christ gives this mission to his apostles: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you." (CCC 1223)
As the heavens were torn open above the Jordan River on Jesus’ Baptism Day, the heavens remain open as we make disciples of all nations each and every day. The flame of our Baptism candle symbolizes the light of Christ that burns in our hearts for eternity. Jesus is our guide as He lights the way as the Suffering Servant. Jesus fulfills the divine oath of worldwide blessing God with Abraham and Isaac and unleashes the blessings Our Father has promised. Let us never forget those graces as we flood the world with light, love, peace, and truth. Come to the water! Jesus already jumped in - the water is satisfying indeed!
Redeemed. Known. Never Drying Off.
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