Baptism of the Lord

1st Reading: Isaiah 42: 1-4, 6-7

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm: 29: 1-4, 9-11

2nd Reading: Acts 10: 34-38

Gospel: Luke: 3: 15-16, 21-22

Before John the Baptist came along, there had not been a prophet in Israel for many years.  It was believed that the appearance of a prophet would foreshadow the arrival of the Messiah and the people were anxious.  John’s message even sounded like the prophets of old; share what you have with those less fortunate, turn away from sin, turn towards God and live righteously.  John’s message was urgent.  He was preparing. 

To really understand this gospel, we have to remind ourselves what life was like when these events took place.  There is no underestimating the importance of paternity to the early Mediterranean people.  They did not understand the biology of conception and thought that the man “planted” a mini version of himself in the woman. Since there was no way of proving paternity (like our modern-day lab tests – “You ARE the father”) people relied on a public acknowledgement for legitimacy.  This declaration (of a man claiming to be the father of a child) obligated the father for the care and welfare of the child as well as setting the social standing for the child.  It was a really big deal.  To have God declare Himself as the father, Jesus was instantly bestowed with extreme honor.  And since all honor was tested, (Is He really who they say He is?) Jesus departs immediately for the desert to be tested.  Every claim of honor met a challenge.  Note: In Matthew’s gospel, God speaks to the people; “This is my beloved son.”  In Luke and Mark, God speaks directly to Jesus; “You are my beloved son.”

The baptism of Jesus is recorded in all four gospels, but with different intention.  Matthew is defensive against the claim that baptism was unnecessary since Jesus was sinless.  Luke doesn’t seem concerned with this issue.  John discusses the revelation of Jesus to John (again, not something Luke mentions.)  But both Luke and Mark write in terms of the empowerment of Jesus.  Luke basically ignores the baptism however, and goes directly to what happened immediately afterward.  Jesus prays and the Holy Spirit descends upon Him declaring him the Son of God.  John is a prophet and gets the ball rolling with the baptism, but it is the Holy Spirit that declares Jesus as Messiah.  This is bigger than John’s mission.

John’s baptism with water washed away sins, but it was Jesus’ baptism by fire (Holy Spirit) that demonstrated the power needed to do God’s will.  It was God’s proclamation of Jesus as a beloved son that demonstrated the authority required to do the work Jesus was about to begin.  The Church received this same power and authority at Pentecost. 

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:

1.    Is the power of the Holy Spirit working in my life?

2.    What have I done that has pleased the Father?

3.    Do I think of my own baptism as an epiphany?

4.    How do I respond to hearing “You are my beloved in whom I am well pleased.”?

5.    Jesus was sent to the desert to face Satan.  Where am I being called? 

6.    What am I being called to confront?

Click here to view original handout from the RCIA Catechumenate session.