Grace to you!
Today’s reflection may be a little technical given the nature of the message. Bear with me.
From the Gospel of Luke 3:15-22, we read the beautiful story of the baptism of the Lord Jesus. The historical event is also documented, with some variations, in two of the three other New Testament Gospels (see Mt 3:13-17 and Mk 1:9-11). The Gospel of John 1:31-34 references John’s personal testimony that many bible scholars suggest point to the encounter he had with Jesus during the baptism. John attested: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn 1:29). You may want to read the biblical accounts of the event. As you read, be open to receive the grace from the Word of God, whose life story you encounter.
As believers, we celebrate every aspect of the Lord’s life and ministry. This is, in part, because for us, the Lord Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. He is the kingdom of God. Life in him is salvation. In him we find grace, righteousness and eternal life. He is the Good News.
All the plans of God for us, as Saint Paul writes, are fulfilled in Christ. “That is why we utter the Amen through him, to the glory of God.” (2 Cor 1:20). The Lord’s birth (Incarnation), which we celebrated during Christmas, is for us grace and joy.
Celebrating any aspect of the Lord’s life isn’t an empty ritual. In doing so, one receives grace and mercy and holiness. One is immersed in the grace-outpouring of that aspect of the Lord’s life.
The Lord’s baptism is the public attestation of the righteousness which Christ embodies and which he has come to institute. Unlike some who argue that it was in the baptism that God the Father adopted Jesus as God, and at his death, the God nature departed from him, the baptism at the River Jordan and the voice that spoke confirming the mission of the Messiah (Lk 3:22), were, as the Lord says to John the Baptizer, “For us[emphasis added] to fulfill all righteousness” (Mt 3:15).
The “us” could be seen as the Lord and John. But more importantly, it could be said to refer to the plan of the Blessed Trinity. It’s the plan of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit from the beginning that the Christ (The Son) has to assume human nature (Incarnation), go through the human reality in the culture in which the Christ is born. He has to be a true identifier with your nature and mine, your brokenness and mine, in order for us to receive grace and life in abundance (Jn 10:10).
At that moment of baptism, the Lord, though without sin, was embodying the sin of all of human race in himself. He had to be baptized in the way humans are, showing us an example to follow. He who has no sin embodies the sins of all of us and goes through the baptism of repentance for the whole of human race, so he can take upon himself the struggles of the human race and nail them at the cross, the second baptism (Lk 12:50), where his blood is poured as the expiation (1 Jn 2:2), purification for our sins. Henceforth, the believer could be baptized not at the River Jordan, but in him, Jesus the Christ, whose death is a “new baptism.” Saint Paul tells us: “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Rm 6:4). Isn’t this what the Church does when we celebrate Baptism?
Christians are now baptized in him who nailed our sins on the word of the cross and “by whose wounds we are healed” (1 Pet 2:24; Is 53:5). We are baptized in Christ and receive not only the cleansing of the original sin that separates us from original holiness. We are baptized so we become new life, new persons, those born anew in the Christ.
I say this whenever I’m conducting baptism. The best first gift anyone could receive on earth after their natural birth is the gift of baptism. That is the gift of being born again in Christ and being, not simply the image of God which we are, but also in the likeness of Christ. We receive that sanctifying grace, that new life, that righteousness which Christ is. With this, the journey of faith comes alive for that person.
As we celebrate the life of Christ in the historical event of his baptism at the River Jordan, I pray we renew our own baptism in him who died and rose, so we may have life, and have it in abundance. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Baptism of the Lord Jesus: Is 42:1-4, 6-7; or Is 40:1-5, 9-11; Acts 10:34-38; or Ti 2:11-14, 3:4-7; Lk 3:15-16, 21-22]
Author and Goal
Father Maurice Emelu PhD., provides a daily blog of reflections based on the Scriptural readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. The goal is to teach, inspire, encourage, and foster healing through the grace of God's word. They are written in a language that is appropriate for a general audience. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration, and developing your thoughts. They may also be useful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.