Today we witness in the gospel a common theme in the bible, irony. For example, here, the sinless one is being washed in a baptism for sinners. Even the central mysteries of our faith carry a bit of irony in them, like the mystery of the nativity, where the creator becomes a creature and or the crucifixion where Jesus, who is the ever-living God, submits himself to death. This irony is one of God’s ways of showing us that His ways are not our ways (Isa 55:8). To understand Christ’s baptism or even our own baptism for that matter, we must realize that God works in Divine ways.
With that in mind, we see how Jesus’ act and allowing a man, John, to baptize Him, the Son of God, is an act of humility. How different this is from our human ways, often, our fallen nature does whatever it can to support its pride and self-image. Yet, God, the Being who is higher than anything else, decides to lower Himself by participating in a baptism designed for sinners even though He was without sin. Jesus was not made clean in the water, but as St Maximus of Turin explains to us, in Him the “water was made clean,” that we might be cleansed. In the gospel today, Christ is preparing the Sacrament for us.
Yet the water is only part of the Sacrament. When a person is baptized, one says, “I baptize you in the name of the father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” This formula is here in today’s gospel as well. As soon as Christ is submerged in the water, we hear the Father’s words shower down from heaven upon Christ in the form of the Holy Spirit, using the image of a dove. After this manifestation, this Trinitarian event spells out something vital, its mission. God says, “You are my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” In this way, God, in His infinite wisdom, adopts us. Even though we are not perfect like Christ, God makes a way to bring us back to Himself through this baptism.
This is the reason for Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River. He knew that He was creating a way for us to become part of God’s family. Thus, in humility, Jesus paves the path of our baptism, our adoption, by first being baptized.
Andre Boudreau – St. Joseph Seminary, Edmonton, Alberta
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