Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Baptism of Our Lord Jesus Christ :)

January 13
(Mt. 3:13-17; Jn 1:29-36)

1. On this day (which used to be the Octave of the Epiphany), we commemorate the Baptism of our Lord. From earliest times, the Church, in her liturgy, was wont to establish a connection between three manifestations of Jesus: His manifestation to the Gentiles, represented by the three Wise Men from the East; the manifestation of His Divinity, when John baptized Him in the Jordan; the manifestation of Jesus as a worker of signs and miracles at Cana, where He performed His first miracle. Today we consider the Baptism of our Lord by John. We have often seen the event depicted in our churches and above our altars.

2. Petition: Jesus begins His public ministry with an act of the profoundest humility, followed by a heavenly testimony to His Divinity. May we penetrate deeper into these mysteries.

I. The Baptist Points Out the Messiah

St John the Baptist was the last of the Prophets of Israel, who had announced the Messiah as “He That was to come” On the banks of the Jordan John points to Him standing in their midst: He has come!

In the hallowed silence of the house of Nazareth the Son of God had become the Son of man by the Fiat of a lowly maiden. On the banks of the Jordan the Precursor solemnly and publicly presents Him to Israel. It was befitting that His Mother should shine with the splendour of virginal purity; befitting too that the Precursor be a man who sought God alone and spoke in His name. He gives his solemn testimony to the Messiah, and then withdraws into obscurity. Mary and John, both very closely connected with the Messiah, teach us that He must increase, and that man must decrease.

When John had baptized Jesus, he saw “the Spirit of God, descending as a dove and coming upon Him”, and John testified: “And I saw; and gave testimony that this is the Son of God” (Jn. 1:34). “The next day again John stood and two of his disciples, and beholding Jesus walking he said, Behold the Lamb of God” (Jn. 35,36). And before this, when he had seen Jesus, coming towards him, he had said, “Behold the Lamb of God. Behold him who taketh away the sin of the world. This is he of whom I said: After me there cometh a man, who is preferred before me, because he was before me” (Jn 1:29,30).

It is good to fix our gaze on the Baptist, at the moment when Israel hails him as the great Prophet – perhaps the Messiah – before the whole nation and in the presence of his own disciples declining the honour that is offered him, and bearing testimony to another who is the true Messiah. He has testified; now he may pass into the night of obscurity.

II. The Father and the Holy Ghost Manifest Jesus

“And Jesus, being baptized, forthwith came out of the water; and lo, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and coming upon him. And, behold, a voice from heaven, saying: This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Mt. 3:16,17).

When the Word was made flesh and came to dwell among us, the Three Divine Persons were present and wrought the wonderful mystery; so also, when the Son of man enters upon His office as Messenger of the Father, the Three Persons co-operate: we hear the voice of the Father, whom no man hath ever seen, proclaiming His love for His only-begotten Son; the Holy Ghost appears in the form of a dove, a symbol of love and of meekness. Jesus, the Son of man, at His Baptism assumes the form of a sinner, “for which cause also God hath exalted him” (Phil. 2:9).

At that moment, on the banks of Jordan, the veil is partly removed from the most unfathomable of divine mysteries, and we are allowed to cast a glance into the abyss of the Deity. We rejoice at this solemn testimony of the Father’s love for His Son, Jesus Christ. May we understand something of the feelings of the Heart of Jesus. “Sacrifice and oblation thou wouldst not; but a body thou hast fitted to me … Then said I, Behold, I come to do thy will, O God” (Heb. 10:5,9).

III. The Inauguration of the Public Ministry

In the presence of the Jews watching from the banks of the Jordan, Jesus, humble and meek, enters into the water and, as if he were a sinner receives the baptism of penance.

Jesus begins His own ministry by paying homage to John; He begins His labours very close to the spot where John was preaching; His first disciples were sent to Him by John; not that He had enticed them from their first allegiance, but because John himself had sent them to Jesus. It is good to reflect on the humility and the courtesy of Jesus, tactfully blending the old and the new.

Jesus adopted a new method: John’s manner had been that of the ancient Prophets “and there went out to him all the country of Judaea and all they of Jerusalem, and were baptized by him … confessing their sins” (Mk. 1:5). And they hearkened to his stern message.

John’s mission is a spectacular success, and the whole nation is aroused; but Jesus, the Messiah sponsored by John, enters upon the scene most discreetly, apparently attracting scant attention. The Jews fail to understand the message of Jesus, and the day is at hand when they will obstinately refuse to listen. They will oppose Christ, and finally reject Him. Both the inauguration and the conclusion of the Lord’s ministry are marked by two contrasts: the humiliating Baptism of Penance, followed by the solemn testimony of the Father from heaven; and at the end, Christ’s ignominious death on the Cross, which heralds His entry into the glory of His Father.
Such was the divine plan of our salvation; and in the Heart of Jesus there was at all times the most perfect acceptance of the Father’s decrees: “Be it so, Father, because it is pleasing in thy sight.” We admire, we praise, we give thanks.

Prayer: O Lord Jesus, whose ways are not our ways; our minds are too small and too carnal to grasp the meaning of Thy words and of Thy actions; Thou hast said to Thy disciples, “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, that I may perfect his work” (Jn. 4:34), and again “I came down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him that sent me” (Jn. 6:38). May we learn from Thee to be humble and to seek only God’s will.

“Jesu mitis et humilis corde, Fac cor nostrum secundum cor tuum.”

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