Can’t Wait to Start: Feast of the Baptism of the Lord

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Gospel of Matthew 3:13-17

Meditation:

 When Jesus humbled Himself to become man, He took upon Himself every human experience. This included long years of painstaking maturation and living in obedience to His parents. Jesus refused short cuts. He accepted the hard road of the heavy burden of sin for us. He experienced the vulnerability of an infant in the womb, the work of human learning and growth, the struggle of every pre-teen to obey their parents even though they feel old enough to be independent, and obedient service to his daily work as a carpenter, the Jewish prayers and observances, 250px-Baptism-of-Christ-xx-Francesco-Albanand His responsibilities toward His parents. He could have come down from heaven as a mature thirty-year-old of nobility, but instead began at the beginning, and walked the human journey in poverty with us to the end. At last, the time had come for Him to begin His public work of preaching, healing, and establishing the Church.

If you have ever had to wait a long time to start a work you are passionate about you know how it feels. Whether it’s enduring years and years of education to prepare you for your career, waiting decades to be old enough to have a family of your own and find the right person to have it with, saving up for a long period of time to venture out to your favorite travel spots, the wait took perseverance and patience. Remember how it seemed like ages before you could drive or turned 18 and had the privileges of being an adult?

Jesus’ Baptism marked His entry into public life. John was correct that Jesus didn’t need to be baptized since Jesus was perfect. However, Jesus didn’t have to do anything for us really, He chose to for our redemption. Therefore, He entered the waters not as a sinful man Himself, but on behalf of sinful mankind who He would liberate through His death and resurrection. Thus He began His ministry by pointing to its end – the Cross. Blessed Archbishop Fulton Sheen describes the connection in his book, The Life of Christ, by saying:

The baptism of the Jordan was a prelude to the baptism of which He would later speak, the baptism of his Passion…Thus his baptism of water looked forward to his baptism of blood…In the waters of the Jordan he was identified with sinners; in the baptism of his Death, he would bear the full burden of their guilt…

The Cross must have been looming up in his thoughts now with increasing vividness. It was no afterthought in his mind. He was temporarily immersed in the waters of the Jordan only to emerge again. So would he be immersed by the death on the Cross and the burial in the tomb, only to emerge triumphantly in the Resurrection.

Jesus entered the water as the Son of Man, but He was also the Son of God. His divinity had been veiled since the Epiphany, but at His Baptism the Father and the Holy Spirit visibly showed their oneness in Christ’s mission, since as a Trinity all three Persons acted together. The Father sent the Son, and “the Spirit was anointing him not just for teaching, but for redeeming.” As an analogy, consider a son delivering Tupperware packed meals, home-made artwork, and some supplies to a neighbor who is ill. Although he trucked it over, the gifts were from the whole family and each had offered something to the care basket.

Baptism is such an incredible sacrament. It washes away ALL prior sin and its punishments. A person arises from the water truly a new person with a new start. Even more, this isn’t only a debt free launch like the gift of a college education to a young adult whose parents generously paid the bill. It’s like starting out with a treasure in the bank. Baptism bestows the life of the Trinity dwelling within us, making us sons and daughters of God, heirs of Heaven, and infused with spiritual gifts of Faith, Hope, Charity, and many other virtues.

This gift came at a cost, and Christ paid that price. Thus baptism was both a joyful anticipation of the greatest moment in history – our Redemption, and at the same time a hastening to the Cross. However, Jesus burned with a passion to heal us out of His immense love, especially for the poorest of the poor. Sheen’s insight into the symbol of the dove supports this:

The dove was the symbol of gentleness and peacefulness, but above all it was the type of sacrifice possible to the lowliest people.

Whenever a Hebrew thought of a lamb or a dove, they immediately thought of a sacrifice for sin. Therefore, the Spirit descending upon Our Lord was for them a symbol of submission to sacrifice.

Gentle, Peaceful, Poor in Spirit, Sacrificial. This describes Christ’s love for us, and our call as baptized Christians. Baptism gives us an amazing start to life in Christ. We have all the means and no debt. But this gift is meant to be invested, like the parable of talents. Parents who put their kid through college do so in hopes that their child will get to pursue their dream or at least earn a position that can afford them a stable income, not so the child can come back home and remain jobless indefinitely with no aspirations. Baptism launches us into the life of grace, one that is meant to be lived like Christ’s – from God and for others. Christian discipleship leads to the Cross, but we can approach it with the same passion and strength as Christ did, knowing that our sacrifice united to His can bring salvation to the souls of those still suffering under the pains of sin and error.

Jesus didn’t need to be baptized but thank God He did! Jesus walks with us through every experience, knowing exactly how we feel. Moreover, He has the power to redeem every failure, heal every wound, dispel every lie, comfort every sorrow, and lift us up in grace.

Consider:

  • What is something you had to wait or work for, for many years? How might Christ have felt when He finally began His public ministry?
  • Where are you at in your spiritual maturation? As you grow in your faith, how might you assume more responsibility and leadership roles within your church?
  • Reflect on the gift of Baptism. Consider the freedom bestowed by Jesus’ sacrifice. Meditate on the indwelling of the Trinity in your soul and the transformation that takes place through His grace.
  • How might you respond to the grace you have been given? What crosses and sacrifices can you carry with Christ for the salvation of souls?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Jesus shared in our human experience. Throughout your day, consider how Jesus can relate to each aspect of your life. For example, Jesus probably began His day with prayer, ate some breakfast, worked on his carpentry projects and deadlines, looked forward to lunch, had customers he enjoyed and customers who were difficult, had friendships,
  • Find a way to take more initiative in spreading the faith. Whether leading prayer in your family, volunteering at church, or speaking positively about God in casual
  • If you have a present struggle, intentionally offer it to Christ in union with His sacrifice for the salvation of souls.

 

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