The Baptism of the Lord

The season of Christmas officially ends this weekend with our celebration of the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.

On this special feast, we are invited to reflect once again on the meaning of our own baptism. Certainly, we know that by virtue of our baptism, we experience a transformation of our nature and identity. We are drawn into the very life of God and given the greatest privilege, to belong to God’s family even before we are, in any way, deserving of it. In other words, when we are baptized, something unspeakably beautiful happens in the order of grace. We are transformed into becoming a child of God!

What Jesus is by nature, we also are by baptism. Jesus is the first-born Son; we are God’s adopted children. What belongs to Jesus belongs to us as well by grace and privilege.

As we remind ourselves today of the meaning of our baptism, we turn our attention to the Gospel story. A long, loving “look” at the events can yield for us several elements for our spiritual edification. For our reflection this weekend, we focus on two points:

The first point is the novelty of the story. One bible scholar said that the early Christians found it difficult to accept that Jesus was baptized by John. The baptism by John was a baptism of penance and conversion, and Jesus had no need for that.

Why would Jesus then submit himself to baptism? The answer lies in Jesus’ desire to come to us where we are. From the very start, he wanted to be identified with us, to side with us sinners. This is not in order to condone or tolerate sin, but to “infuse” us, as it were, with his strength, and to help us overcome and win over sin. He joined us so that we can join him. He came to meet us where we are, so that we can accompany Him on the roots of his own journey. He took on everything that is human so that He could give us everything that is divine. He allowed himself to be baptized in order to become a part of our own nature, enslaved by sin and be our companion and hope in the difficult journey back to freedom.

In other words, it was an event of compassion and solidarity, which finds no precedence elsewhere. One theologian quipped that Christianity represents the end of religion. In other religious traditions, it is the human person who goes out in order to find God; in Jesus, it is God Himself who comes to us.

We also see the symbolism of a dove. In the Gospel we are told that, as Jesus had been baptized and was praying, “heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove.” (cf. Lk. 3:21-22)

Among other things, the dove represents a certain disposition or attitude. In the Israelite mind, it was a symbol for “sweetness and love.” It represents the manner by which God comes to us. He approaches sinners with the tenderness of a dove, not with the ferociousness of an eagle or a vulture.

The prophet Isaiah describes the Messiah precisely along this vein of tenderness. The Messiah would not come shouting, or using abusive language, or breaking things and employing violence. He would come healing the wounds of sin by his kindness. (cf. Is 42:1-4, 6-7)

This weekend, as we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, let us remember that in our own Baptism, the Holy Spirit moves us to answer Christ’s call to holiness. In our own Baptism, we are asked to walk by the light of Christ and to trust in his wisdom. We are invited to submit our hearts to Christ with ever deeper love.

~ Reflection by Fr Anthony Uytingco

1 Baptism and Christian Initiation. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/sacraments-and-sacramentals/baptism