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The Water, the Spirit, and the Son of Man

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By Chris Sparks (Jan 11, 2019)
View the readings for this Sunday.

Sunday, Jan. 11, 2019, Feast of the Baptism of the Lord

Is 42:1-4, 6-7 or Is 40:1-5, 9-11
• Ps 29:1-2, 3-4, 3, 9-10 or Ps 104:1B-2, 3-4, 24-25, 27-28, 29-30
• Acts 10:34-38 or Ti 2:11-14; 3:4-7
• LK 3:15-16, 21-22

This Sunday, we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.

Now it may be puzzling to some folks why exactly Jesus was baptized. The Son of the Father is innocent, pure, perfect, a spotless lamb, a perfect offering. The Holy One of God is already holy, already alive with divinity. He has been so from all eternity, and will be so to all eternity.

The answer? Jesus didn't need Baptism; Baptism needed Jesus.

Saint Maximus of Turin tells us, "Christ is baptized, not to be made holy by the water, but to make the water holy, and by his cleansing to purify the waters which he touched. For the consecration of Christ involves a more significant consecration of the water."

By submitting Himself to Baptism at the hands of John the Baptist, Christ sanctified the waters of the earth and opened them up to being used in Christian Baptism.

In a similar way, His plunge into creation, His descent from Heaven into incarnate flesh, into the womb of the Blessed Mother, was a baptism of sorts. He accepted that, as well, even though He did not need it to save us. He became one of us, bearing our human nature, though He is God. He accepted the descent into humanity, the descent into a life among us, the descent even of submission to human authorities, to parents, to earthly rulers, to the system of law and prophets that He'd given His own people, Israel. He accepted to be baptized into all of humanity, like us in all things except sin (see Heb 4:15).

And all of this happened by God's own initiative. Just as St. John the Baptist recognizes, we are "not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals" (Lk 3:16). Jesus was not drawn down from Heaven by our exceptional righteousness; we are only righteous by His grace and gift. Jesus was not compelled to be baptized by some human judge or earthly authority; He came willingly, humbly, joining the long line of sinners who had heard His cousin John's preaching and gone to the Jordan to embrace an external sign of their repentance. And by Christ's humility, the grace of Baptism was opened up to us all.

Christ came to bring us back to the Father with Him. He came to save, not to judge. He came to make it possible for His creatures to share in His eternal, divine life, for the world had fallen and, on its own, could not get back up again.

The generosity of God is extravagant, and incomprehensible to the devils in hell. They are all clutching and clawing after power. God is lavishing love and life on all of creation, giving it away, pouring Himself out utterly, generously, for that's who He is. To be like God is to be generous after the same fashion, in all virtue and wisdom, of course, but in all open-handedness, as well.

We see that open-handedness at the Baptism of the Lord. We see the heavens open, and the Spirit come down upon the Son of Man like a dove, and know that we also may receive the water and the Spirit; we also may turn again to God in repentance, and live forever, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.


View the previous Sunday Scripture Preview.

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Sheila - Jan 13, 2019

My parish priest mentioned in his sermon that he visit often the site if his baptism where he became a child of God. One of the things I find worrisome are the members of my family and colleagues who no longer have their children baptized or feel it is a sacrament a child should choose. I do not think Christ intended this and ones entry to the early church is though Baptisin. Because babies are born with original sin, they need baptism to cleanse them, so that they may become adopted sons and daughters of God and receive the grace of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said that the kingdom of God also belongs to children (see Mt 18:4; Mk 10:14).He never put an age limit upon those eligible to receive His grace (Lk 18:15-17; Mt 18:2-5). I do not think I am alone in seeing this as a growing problem.