The Baptism of the Lord
10th January 2021
Year B – Psalter week 1
On Wednesday we celebrated the arrival of the wise men from the East which marked the “manifestation of Jesus as Messiah of Israel, Son of God and Saviour of the world.” Today, we also celebrate an “Epiphany” of Jesus as Messiah and Son of God, this time on the occasion of his Baptism at the beginning of his public ministry.
In accepting John’s baptism, Jesus accepts his mission as Messiah, but as the suffering servant prophesied by Isaiah. John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance, but as our faith teaches, Jesus was sinless and so he had no need of repentance. Rather, by being immersed in the river Jordan, Jesus sanctifies the waters of baptism and freely chooses to associate Himself with every sinner in order to transform them into a new creation, one that shares most intimately in God’s very own divine life.
Baptism is concerned with death and resurrection. Beginning with his baptism, Jesus accepts his mission as God’s suffering servant which will lead to his ultimate baptism. His descent into the Jordan is an anticipation of his bodily death on the cross. By accepting John’s baptism, Jesus consents to taking our sinful nature upon himself. It is our sinful nature that goes down into the waters with him and is ultimately put to death on the cross.
While the descent of Jesus into the water is symbolic of death, his coming up out of the water is symbolic of new life. After the cross came the resurrection. Mark’s gospel says: “No sooner had he come up out of the water than he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit, like a dove, descending on him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on you.’”
The baptism of Jesus, then, is all about the first creation giving way to a new creation. As the Spirit hovered over the waters at the first creation in the book of Genesis, so the Spirit hovers over the waters of the Jordan. Upon coming out of the water, Jesus saw “the heavens torn apart.” These heavens had been closed ever since Adam and Eve’s fall in the Garden of Eden. Christ is the New Adam. Just as God associates himself with every sinner through the descent of Jesus into the Jordan, so now, in Jesus’ coming up from the water, He desires to create each of us anew, into the image of his beloved Son. The Holy Spirit rests upon Jesus, “who will be the source of the Spirit for all mankind.”
Thanks to the baptism of Jesus, and ultimately his death and resurrection, each of us, through the sacrament of baptism, have become new creatures. Through baptism, each of us has entered into Christ’s death so as to share in his resurrection. We have been washed clean from the stain of original sin. Each of us has received, at the very core of our being, an indelible spiritual mark of belonging to Christ. We have become members of his body the Church, and have been created anew already in Christ’s image. We have been reborn as sons and daughters of God. When God the Father looks at each of us, he sees his Son, Jesus. As such, those words from the Father in today’s gospel are addressed to each and every one of us personally: “You are my son, my daughter, the beloved; my favour rests on you.” Our relationship with God is no longer that of a slave to a master. Rather, it is a loving filial relationship, in which we can now call God “Our Father.”
One of the effects the spiritual mark received at baptism is that of being set apart to offer worship to God in the Mass, when we join with Christ himself in offering, in the power of the Spirit, all glory, honour, praise and thanksgiving to God the Father. We pray during this Mass especially, then, for a renewal of the grace of baptism and the gifts of the Spirit in each of us, so that we may serve and build up God’s kingdom, that new creation in Christ, of which we are all a part.
 Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), par. 528.
 See CCC 535.
 CCC 536.
Come to me and your soul will live, and I will make an everlasting covenant with you
With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation
1 John 5:1-9
Sunday Message and Look
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The Lord has sent me to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives. Alleluia!