“I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” (Matthew 3:14)

The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord

Isaiah 42:1-4,6-7

Thus says the LORD: Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, upon whom I have put my spirit; he shall bring forth justice to the nations, not crying out, not shouting, not making his voice heard in the street. a bruised reed he shall not break, and a smoldering wick he shall not quench, until he establishes justice on the earth; the coastlands will wait for his teaching. I, the LORD, have called you for the victory of justice, I have grasped you by the hand; I formed you, and set you as a covenant of the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.

Acts 10:34-38

Peter proceeded to speak to those gathered in the house of Cornelius, saying: “In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him. You know the word that he sent to the Israelites as he proclaimed peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all, what has happened all over Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached, how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power. He went about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.”

Matthew 3:13-17

Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. John tried to prevent him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?” Jesus said to him in reply, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed him. After Jesus was baptized, he came up from the water and behold, the heavens were opened for him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

This Sunday we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord. This reminds me of my own Baptism many years ago when I was a teenager and I seemed to understand quite well then what Baptism meant to me. I eagerly looked forward to receiving the Sacrament that takes away my sins and cleanses my dull soul to a spotless sparkling white. The forgiveness one receives at Baptism is full and complete including original sin, personal sins as well as penalties for these (CCC 978).

Jesus is sinless, why would He want to be baptized by John the Baptist? This may be in John’s mind, too, who proclaims a baptism of water for the forgiveness of sins, for “a change of heart” and the one who is to come after him is more powerful and will baptize them in the “Holy Spirit and fire” (Matthew 3:11). So when Jesus comes to the Jordan to be baptized, John said to Jesus, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” (Matthew 3:13). Jesus answers that the Baptism is fitting to “fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). Indeed, in the first reading, we hear Isaiah’s prophecy that the Lord has called Jesus “in righteousness”, given him as “a light to the nations … to bring out … those who sit in darkness” (Is 42:6-7). Through His Baptism, Jesus identifies with the sinners. It is a “manifestation of his self-emptying” (CCC 1224), taking on “the nature of a servant, made in human likeness” (Philippians 2:7).

In this Sunday’s Gospel reading, we also hear that after Jesus is baptized by John in the Jordan, his divinity as the Beloved Son in the Triune God is revealed, “… suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased’” (Matthew 3:16-17).

The grace of Baptism delivers us from sin but does not deliver us from inclination to sin. The frailties in character that may lead us to evil are “left for us to wrestle with” (CCC 1264). When the risen Christ instructs the Apostles to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20), He is also giving us the key to win the wrestle with our own weakness in character, temptation and inclination to sin, that is, to live out what he teaches us every day in our lives.

Posted: January 12, 2020

Shiu Lan

Shiu Lan is your Catholic neighbour with a simple faith and likes praying the Rosary. With a B.Sc from the University of Hong Kong, she worked in Information Technology and Project Management before working with joy at home.

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