The Baptism of our Lord -- 2003

You are My Beloved Son

January 12, 2003


Br. Anthony of Mary in the Wilderness
Benedictine Community of Saint Anthony
Stevensville, Montana

Text: he Holy Gospel According to Saint Mark 1:7-11

The Baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ is unique.

Baptism comes from the Greek word (baptein) meaning, "to dip, to immerse." It also means also in classical Greek, "being overwhelmed," as with suffering. This idea or meaning appears to be reflected in Mark's Gospel later (Mark 10:38-39) where Christ Jesus and the Apostles are spoken of as being "baptized" with suffering.

The idea of baptism is as old as the Old Testament with, for example, the story of Naaman the leper, a commander in the army of the king of Aram. (2 Kings 5:14) who immersed himself seven times in the river of Jordan.

Later in the history of the Church, the Church fathers would interpret this as being a sacrament. The Jewish people prescribed ritual baths for purification (Leviticus 14:8-9)

The baptism of John had a unique moral character to it. It was a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. John the Baptist asked for a confession (acknowledgement) of sins and a manifestation of conversion, he sought moral purity. In fact, John expected his baptism ministry to be superceded, for it was provisional, (see Matthew 3:11).

He expected a baptism with he Holy Spirit and with fire -- the Messianic baptism that would inaugurate a new world.

The Baptism of JESUS did not indicate his sinfulness but his union for salvation toward sinful humanity (see John 1:32-34), and the inauguration of the Messianic mission of the Lord JESUS.

(See also Matthew 3:13-17; Luke 3:21-22 with the present text).

This passage comes to us this day to help us reflect upon the importance of being identified with JESUS Christ in the redemptive purposes of God through JESUS Christ. John, the Gospel writer, will go on to record in John 3:1-21 the importance of baptism for us in water and the Spirit as a rebirth from above by the work of God the Father.

Let us hear what the Spirit says today through John the Baptizer, for he tells us much about ourselves and the One, JESUS, our Redeemer, our Emmanuel, who comes to save his people from their sins,

7 And he preached, saying, "After me comes he who is mightier than I, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.

We do well, if we follow the example of John here who sees himself in the light of what the Spirit of God shows him to be. We would all understand that John is St. John the Baptizer, a holy man of God who first "met" JESUS when Mary, the Mother of our Lord visited St. Elizabeth. There within the womb of Elizabeth, John leaped when the voice of Mary and the Presence of JESUS came face to face in that place.

The Spirit of God moved upon John all of his life, as he sized up through the Holy Spirit's illumination the nature of sin and the need of sinful man for a Savior. He says what we all must say -- "After me comes he who is mightier than I, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie."

Holy John says this. What must we say, if we are to be honest with God and honest with ourselves? Like the centurion who would find out later with JESUS face to face, when he had a need for his servant, we must say when we are face to face with JESUS at the Eucharist, "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you. Only say the word and I shall be healed."

So, John says,

8 I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."

Yes, and this would happen when JESUS gave the promise of the Holy Spirit for the Day of Pentecost.

It is of great importance that we remember that Pentecost was the celebration of the giving of the Law (Ten Commandments) at Mount Horeb (Sinai).

There 3000 people who died due to their disobedience and rebellion. On the Day of Pentecost that would come, JESUS would baptize those believers with the Holy Spirit and 3000 people (Jews who had perhaps been there during Passover calling for the crucifixion of Jesus) would come again to the mountain of the Lord and become part of the Church.

Praise be to God alone!

So, JESUS does not ask of us anything but to observe and follow him in faith in all things. He (JESUS) is obedient to his Father and he comes to John who ministers for God the Father through the Holy Spirit's ministry in the Jordan, where this hermit and preacher baptizes in the wilderness. John was preaching repentance. Yet, JESUS needed no repentance.

I am so glad that God has revealed himself in JESUS.

It is JESUS who comes and identifies with us in this matter of baptism in order that we might someday follow him and identify with JESUS.

He who was without sin would become sin for us in order that we with our sins might be washed clean through the water and the blood he spilled on Calvary for our sins.

Our own baptisms would speak of the reality that we are washed through the waters of baptism administered by the Church.

Yet, there is this special baptism of JESUS that precedes the work of God on our behalf.

9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.

10 And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens opened and the Spirit descending upon him like a dove;

11 and a voice came from heaven, "Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased."

How awesome is God?

"Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased."

JESUS was the Obedient Son.

He obeys the will of the Father.

Now, the Blessed Holy Trinity in the Voice from heaven (the Father) and the Spirit descending like a dove, says -- "Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased."

May we also come to hear these words, as we follow JESUS and come to that place of faith in God alone, and the waters of baptism.

May we also come to that place of surrender and be baptized fully with the fires of the Holy Spirit and receive all the graces God has for us as we discover the deeper walk we might all have with Jesus.

JESUS has made the Way for us. He is the Way, Truth and Life for us.

Mary's Son is our Brother, coming to us as Man with mankind without sin to die for the sins of the world (mankind). "Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased."

How will we respond to this One who came from Nazareth of Galilee?

Shall we ignore the call of God, this vocation of obedient faith that calls us daily to go and proclaim by our lives the purity from sin and the obedience of faith God calls us all to partake in through Grace provided?

No, we ought to listen to the voice of the Lord. We are called to listen and obey as John, Mary and Elizabeth and those being baptized at the Jordan. We need to listen to God and obey God in faith, as did all the saints of the Church since then and today. May we also hear similar words to, "Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased," in the words, "Well done good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of the Lord."

Deus et Sanctissima.

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