SUNDAY BREAKFAST WITH THE WORD
Is 42:1-4, 6-7; Acts 10:34-38; Mt 3:13-17
The Christmas season comes to an end with the feast of the Baptism of Our Lord. At Epiphany we celebrate God’s self-revelation to the Gentiles and to the world. In the baptism, God himself manifests Who Jesus is. One might say, this is the second Epiphany. The identity of Jesus was revealed by the Almighty Father in communion of the Holy Spirit. Today also, Jesus Christ reveals his mission to the world; to become one with us and save repentant sinners. The liturgical season of Christmas comes to a conclusion this Sunday with the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord.
Baptism did not begin with Christians. For years before Christ, the Jews had used baptism in ritual cleansing ceremonies of Gentile proselytes. John the Baptist took baptism and applied it to the Jews themselves. For it was not just the Gentiles who needed cleansing. Many believed John’s message and were baptized by him (Matthew 3:5–6). John’s baptism had to do with repentance, it was a symbolic representation of changing one’s mind and going a new direction. “Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River” (Matthew 3:6). Being baptized by John demonstrated a recognition of one’s sin, a desire for spiritual cleansing, and a commitment to follow God’s law in anticipation of the Messiah’s arrival. This understanding paves the way for to grasp the message of the event of today. As today marks the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry.
That Jesus would have allowed John to baptize him apparently poses some theological problem for John the Baptist and even Matthew. Does Jesus need to seek repentance through John’s baptism? If John is incapable of even carrying Jesus’ sandals, why would Jesus seek John’s baptism? If Jesus would bring a baptism of “Holy Spirit and fire” (Mathew 3:11), why does he need a baptism with mere water? If Jesus would preside over the judgment of the world, why would he need to seek repentance? These tensions led to John’s hesitation.
To Fulfill All Righteousness
The baptism today is Jesus’ first public act and thus unquestionably so significant. First, is that Matthew indicates that this baptism is a collaborative effort: “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness” (3:15). John must fulfill and complete his mission of making Jesus known. All he has been saying about the Messiah was also certified by the voice that came down from heaven, which identified not just Jesus but also certify that the messages of John about the Messiah are true. Jesus also seeks the baptism of John to certify his mission and prove that all that was said about him are true. Together, their obedience to God’s plans is a step on the path of righteousness. A message that the only way we can submit to Gods plan in our lives and fulfill our mission on earth is to live in total obedience to Him.
Second is the aim of “fulfilling all righteousness.” What might this mean? In Matthew, Joseph is called righteous when he intends to end his relationship with Mary quietly (Mathew 1:19). In the Sermon on the Mount, those who yearn for righteousness and are oppressed because of their pursuits of it, will receive God’s blessings (Mt 5:6, 10). Thus, “to fulfill all righteousness” likely means acting in obedience to God. Thus, Jesus’ first step in public ministry is a display of his obedience to God’s call. He allowed himself to be numbered among sinners. Jesus submitted himself entirely to his Father’s will. Many Fathers of the Church explain that Jesus received baptism to identify himself with his people, who, as a result of John’s preaching, for the first time in Jewish history, became aware of their sins and of their need for repentance. The Jews had the traditional belief that only the Gentiles who embraced Jewish religion needed the baptism of repentance, for, as God’s chosen people, the Jewish race was holy. Thus, Jesus’ baptism certifies the importance of baptism and total repentance for all.
God confirms Jesus’ identity and commitment by sending the empowering Spirit and declaring Jesus’ identity (Matthew 3:16-17). God declares Jesus’ identity and destiny as God’s son. God expresses love for him and announces that God has “chosen” him for this role. The Heavens’ opening also indicates that this was a moment of God’s powerful intervention in human history and in the life of His Son. His baptism by John was a very important event in the life of Jesus. First, it was a moment of decision. It marked the end of Jesus’ private life which had prepared him for his public ministry. Second, it was a moment of identification with his people. Third, it was a moment of approval. Jesus might have been waiting for a signal of approval from his Heavenly Father, and during his baptism Jesus got this approval of Himself as the Father’s “beloved Son.” Fourth, it was a moment of conviction. At this baptism, Jesus received certainties (assurances) from Heaven about His identity, a) He was the “Chosen One” and the “beloved Son of God”; and the nature of His mission: b) his mission of saving mankind would be fulfilled, not by conquering the Romans, but by becoming the “suffering servant” of God, i.e., by the cross. Fifth, it was a moment of equipment. Through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus’ baptism reminds us of something very important. To experience the presence of God, we have to submit to the will of God and thus collaborative effectively with one another just like John and Jesus. Secondly the virtue of humility is very important to achieve whatever God wants from us. John would have puffed himself up, seeing Jesus come to him. He might puff himself up telling people that he is the one who has only the power to baptize the Messiah. But he sees himself even as unworthy.
God identifies Jesus as His beloved and one in whom He is well pleased. Jesus has lived in in total submission to Gods plan for his life. Remember that though he is God’s beloved He experienced temptations, attack, and sufferings. But He is just committed to bring Gods plan to fulfillment. God is pleased with Him. The question we ask ourselves today is “is God pleased with us? Are we committed to fulfill our mission on earth despite our challenges? Is God please with the secret lives we live? Is God please with our total neglect of Him? Have we truly submitted to Him?
Let us not forget the significance of John’s baptism which entirely focuses on repentance and change of heart, and immediately after the baptism, significant events began to happen, mighty voice was heard to identify who the Messiah is and the Holy Spirit manifested His presence through the appearance of the dove to equip Him for the mission. This Peter says in the second reading that God anointed him with the Holy Ghost, and with power, and he went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. This is truly what happens when are baptized a new and relieved from the burden of sin. We need the Holy Spirit to effectively achieve our mission. Those significant events did not happen before the baptism but immediately Jesus comes out of the water of baptism. A pointer that we can fully have a divine encounter and equipped spiritually for our calling when we totally submit in total obedience to God’s plan and repent from our atrocities and have a change of heart; Giving God the chance to be pleased with us. Beloved I pray that God give us the grace to live in total obedience to Him. Amen.