Jesus appeared: he came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptised by John. John tried to dissuade him. ‘It is I who need baptism from you’ he said ‘and yet you come to me!’ But Jesus replied, ‘Leave it like this for the time being; it is fitting that we should, in this way, do all that righteousness demands.’ At this, John gave in to him.
As soon as Jesus was baptised he came up from the water, and suddenly the heavens opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming down on him. And a voice spoke from heaven, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on him.’
Gospel reading – Courtesy of Universalis Publishing Ltd. – www.universalis.com
“This is my Son, the Beloved”
by Michał Jeszke SDB
The gospel story of the baptism of Jesus – especially in the description of St. Matthew – directs our attention to two very important issues in the life of every Christian. Fulfilment of God’s will and the awareness of being His beloved child.
First, Jesus teaches us through dialogue with John the Baptist. John knew who stood before him. He couldn’t understand why He should baptize the Messiah. But Jesus simply finished his deliberations, saying that they have to fulfil all that righteousness demands – that is the will of God. In this way God demonstrates solidarity with sinners. Entering into the river of sin, into human life. Entering the Jordan so as to take human sins on himself.
However, Jesus enters the waters of the Jordan first of all, to reveal to the people their unique relationship with his Father. The scene of the Baptism is also a place of revelation of God as Trinity. A voice from heaven saying This is my Son, the Beloved, my favour rests on him is the voice of the Father. The Father shows his Son to the people who came to the Jordan to listen to John the Baptist. Indirectly he presents Jesus as the Messiah – Christ – to all Israel. The dove, which descends on Jesus, is a symbol of the Holy Spirit and of love. It is also a sign of God’s mercy. In the Book of Genesis the dove announces the end of the flood. In the Song of Songs, the eyes of the beloved staring on his bride are compared to doves. The dove is a symbol of God’s loving eyes staring at Jesus, it is a symbol of love, which takes the concrete form of the Holy Spirit.
What does this event teach us? That we are all children of God, and that we are loved by a Father, who always cares for us, who is always with us, whatever happens, whatever we do – nothing will change this. God’s fatherhood is love.
Sunday, when we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord invites us to return to our baptism, through which we have been brought into the Church. To be baptized is to be a Christian. But Christianity is not only a privilege of talking to God, Our Father, but also a obligation to do His will. Therefore, let our experience of this Sunday awake in us the joy of being a child of God and mobilize us to respond to his call to us. Then, through the mercy of God, each of us will be able to hear: You are my beloved Son…
by Fr Juan José Bartolomé SDB
Introduction to Lectio Divine
The scene of the Lord’s baptism inaugurates the public ministry of Jesus. Before Jesus is introduced to the people with the good news of the kingdom, God is introduced as his Father. Jesus must overcome the reluctance of John the Baptist in order to be baptized by him. The dialogue shows the unease of the early Christians who cannot deny the fact, but see it as a meritorious decision on the part of Jesus. He accomplishes this rite of repentance as an act of righteousness. At his baptism Jesus fulfilled the will of God and for this reason God recognized him as his beloved son. Doing all that righteousness demands, being faithful to the will of God leads to becoming intimate with God. Before being proclaimed Son, Jesus does what God wants, even if it is not understood by men. Whoever seeks to do the will of God in everything, all that righteousness demands, will be recognised by God as his son or daughter. It does not matter what others think. What matters is to do what God asks of us.
Read: understand what the text is saying, focussing on how it says it
The text describes the baptism of Jesus in two short scenes. In the first, Jesus comes to John and has to overcome John’s reluctance. In the second, Jesus is proclaimed beloved Son by the Father. The conciseness of the account makes the scant information all the more significant. We should pay attention therefore to the details.
In the first scene Jesus is the undisputed protagonist. It is he who goes to the Jordan, who wants to be baptized, who succeeds in convincing John the Baptist. Doing all that righteousness demands is the motive that makes him act. For Jesus, Baptism is not a stage in conversion but the fulfilment of righteousness.
In the second part also, Jesus continues to take the initiative, except at the end. He comes out of the river and sees the Spirit descending upon him. However the voice from heaven – the voice of the Father – concludes the scene: the one who wanted to do all that righteousness demands is the beloved Son of the Father.
Three observations may help us to understand the meaning of the text:
- The narrator does not describe the baptism (he simply says ‘as soon as Jesus was baptised’), but concentrates on what went before and what came after. He is not interested in the fact, but only in its significance.
- In the introduction, Jesus is the protagonist. He allows himself to be baptised by his own conscious, deliberate decision. In the conclusion it is God who speaks, identifying Jesus as the beloved Son and himself as the Father whose favour rests on Jesus.
Jesus wants to be baptized to do all that righteousness demands. And as soon as Jesus was baptized, God recognises him as his own Son. Doing all that righteousness demands must be something great if the one who does it becomes a son of God! Thinking only of this text, what does it mean to do all that righteousness demands by being baptised?
Meditate: apply what the text says to life
As often happens, the text can be applied in two ways, which, however, are not exclusive:
- Concentrate on Jesus and meditate carefully on his person and on who he is for us (the Christological approach).
- Look at myself, identifying myself with Jesus, as one who is baptized and a child of God, concentrating more on what I am for God (the experiential approach).
In both approaches, we should bear in mind that first, it is Jesus who asks to be baptized and, because he is determined to do all that righteousness demands, convinces the Baptist. The figure of John the Baptist is marginal. Second, it was God who proclaimed himself the Father whose favour rests on Jesus, as soon as Jesus was baptized. More than his baptism it is his will to do all that righteousness demands which leads God to open the heavens, and causes the Spirit to descend and proclaim Jesus his Son. God responds to the decision of Jesus to do all that righteousness demands by opening the heavens with his voice, filling Jesus with his Spirit, and presenting himself as the most loving Father.
Some questions may help us to apply this message to our lives:
- Does the baptism I received drive me, as it drove Jesus, to do all that righteousness demands?
- What is my commitment to living my baptism?
- What concrete consequences in my daily living show that I have been baptized?
- Jesus did not allow himself to be dissuaded by the objective arguments of John the Baptist and he did all that righteousness demanded. What are the arguments – practical or theoretical – that keep me from doing all that righteousness demands?
- God spoke, sent his Spirit and declared Son the one who had allowed himself to be baptized in order to do all that righteousness demands. If God does not speak, if I do not see the Spirit descend on me, if I do not feel myself a beloved son or daughter, is it not because I do not live my baptism by seeking to do all that righteousness demands?
- How can I make my life as a Christian a search for righteousness?
- What must I do for God to see me as his son or daughter?
- The one who seeks righteousness makes God speak, sees the Spirit descend and knows that he or she is a child of God. Can I imagine any greater recompense?
- Why then do I not begin immediately to seek righteousness? I know what seeking righteousness will do for me (hear God speaking, possess his Spirit, enjoy his favour). Do I know what it is that hinders me from seeking righteousness?
when Christ was baptized in the river Jordan
the Holy Spirit came upon him
and your voice proclaimed from heaven, ‘This is my beloved Son.’
Grant that we,
who by water and the Holy Spirit are your adopted children,
may continue steadfast in your love.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.