THE CLEANSING WATERS OF RE-BIRTH. In Luke’s Gospel, the baptism of Jesus marks the end of the ministry of John the Baptist and the beginning of a new era, that of the saving ministry of Jesus. This feast, which occurs early in the New Year, is a good time for us to resolve to begin a new era in our own lives. Putting the past behind us, let us commit ourselves to making a fresh start in our service and love of our brothers and sisters.
REFLECTIONS ON THE GOSPEL
THE DIVINE COMMUNION
The feasts of Christmastide celebrate some aspect of the revelation of God in the person of Jesus Christ. Christmas celebrates Christ’s revelation to Israel. Epiphany celebrates his revelation to the nations. Today’s feast of the Baptism celebrates the revelation of God as Holy Trinity.
It is important then to bring out this Trinitarian aspect of Christ’s baptism. What occurs after Jesus has emerged from the water is more significant than the actual baptism itself.
In St Luke’s account Jesus is at prayer following his baptism. Prayer for Luke pierces the barrier between heaven and earth, accessing the realm of God. The heavens open and the Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus in bodily (that is, visible) shape like a dove. The Voice that then comes from heaven is that of the Father, assuring Jesus that he is the Beloved Son, on whom the Father’s favour rests.
So what we should find in the scene is a revelation, not in inaccessible heavenly remoteness but here on earth, of the Holy Trinity – Father (‘Voice’), Son, and Spirit – as a divine communion of love.
This sense of being love and favoured by the Father will be the ’enginne’ empowering the ministry of Jesus now about to begin. His role will be to draw human beings under that divine declaration of love, making all the baptised beloved sons and daughters of God. In this sense, as John points out, he will ‘baptise with the Holy Spirit and with fire’ – the ‘fire’ of divine love that is the Holy Spirit.
Brendan Byrne, SJ