The Baptism of the Lord

Jesus’ Baptism at the Jordan

Central Idea: Isaiah prophesied Christ. Doctrine: The Baptism of Jesus. Practical Application: Acts of contrition.

To view the Lectionary 21 readings, click here.

Central Idea: Isaiah prophesied Christ

Reading 1 Is 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.

  • Isaiah prophesied Christ.
    • Christ is the Lord’s “servant,” his “chosen one,” with whom God “is pleased,” and on whom rests God’s “spirit.”
    • His mission is to “bring forth justice to the nations,” that is, to the entire world.
      • What does “bring forth justice to the nations” mean?
      • God’s idea of justice is not to punish human beings for sin. It is to reestablish the deepest friendship with everyone (“a covenant”), to enlighten everyone with the truth (“a light for the nations”), and to free us from suffering (“prisoners” of darkness).
  • Isaiah also prophesied this servant’s method of action. Out of respect for human freedom, he will invite but not coerce:

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.

  • The coastlands did “wait for his teachings.” The Gentiles waited until Christ’s servants, the Apostles, brought his message to them.
  • What Isaiah did not foresee was the most wonderful thing of all. This Servant of God would be God himself, God the Son, the Second Person of God. He would be the Son of the Father, the First Person of God. He would be filled with the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of God.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 29:1-2, 3-4, 3, 9-10

R. The Lord will bless his people with peace.

Give to the LORD, you sons of God,
give to the LORD glory and praise,
Give to the LORD the glory due his name;
adore the LORD in holy attire.

The voice of the LORD is over the waters,
the LORD, over vast waters.
The voice of the LORD is mighty;
the voice of the LORD is majestic.

The God of glory thunders,
and in his temple all say, “Glory!”
The LORD is enthroned above the flood;
the LORD is enthroned as king forever.

  • It is right for human beings to give glory to God for his goodness and greatness.
  • God is LORD over every created thing, including water, so necessary for life.
  • God has blessed water in making it the sensible sign or physical element in the Sacrament of Baptism. Baptism is the sacrament through which he “bless[es] his people with peace,” that is, reestablishes friendship between him and them, and dresses them “in holy attire,” that is, fills them with sanctifying grace, his very life.

Reading 2 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.”

  • Christianity comes from Judaism, but it is for everyone, because God wants every human being to be his son or daughter.
  • What God wants of his children is not something strange in anyone’s eyes. No matter where he or she is from (“in every nation”), a person who tries to avoid doing evil (“fears [God]”) and does good (“acts uprightly”) “is acceptable to him.”
  • The Incarnate God did not practice a goodness that was strange either: “He went about doing good.”
  • Peter says that Jesus’ baptism by John was the inauguration of Jesus’ divine ministry through an anointing by God the Father “with the Holy Spirit and power.”

Gospel Mt 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.”

  • Jesus went to John with the intention of receiving John’s symbolic baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
  • John knew such a token was not necessary because Jesus was not a sinner. Jesus, however, says, “it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”
    • What can that mean, “to fulfill all righteousness”? Righteousness and justice mean the same thing. Justice means something is owed. Every human being who has sinned—or all of us—owes each other and God repentance for our sin. The debt comes from the sin. The first step in undoing that debt is repentance.
    • There was no strict necessity for John to give or Jesus to receive this baptism. That is why Jesus says, “allow it” and it is “fitting for us” to do.
    • Thus, Jesus is identifying himself with every other human being who has sinned.
  • Jesus’ baptism by John became the occasion of a revelation of the inner nature of God as a Trinity of persons: God the Father spoke, the beloved Son was spoken about, the Spirit of God descended on the Son like a dove.

 Doctrine: The Baptism of Jesus

  • Jesus begins his public life with this baptism by John.
  • In this act, he associates himself with sinners—“tax collectors and soldiers, Pharisees and Sadducees, and prostitutes” (CCC 535).
  • The form of a dove and the voice from heaven are a “manifestation (“Epiphany”) of Jesus as Messiah of Israel and Son of God” (CCC 535).
  • To “fulfill all righteousness” means “he is submitting himself entirely to his Father’s will: out of love he consents to this baptism of death for the remission of our sins” (CCC 536).
  • This acceptance totally delights the Father and Jesus will be source of the Holy Spirit “for all mankind” (CCC 536).

Practical application: Acts of contrition

  • We have received not a symbolic baptism like John’s but the Sacrament of Baptism, which has made us new creatures. Nevertheless, we still sin, again and again. So, we need to turn again and again to God in repentance.
  • Because we express ourselves through words and gestures, we must put our contrition into words and can express it with gestures.
  • A very simple act of contrition is to say to God, “I’m sorry” or “Be merciful to me a sinner.”
  • It is very important to memorize a full Act of Contrition (like the following) because it fully expresses in precise words our sorrow and also teaches us again and again what contrition really is.

O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins because I dread the loss of Heaven and the pains of Hell; but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who art all-good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life. Amen.

  • An act of contrition can be done at any time in public without anyone knowing, in the Liturgy with the prescribed gestures, or in private on our knees, or with head bowed, and striking our breast.
  • It is good to make this act not just when we feel like it but in an orderly way, like at the end of every day after examining our conscience.
  • Of course, the most important act of contrition we make is the one that is part of the Sacrament of Penance.
  • Every act of contrition should be followed by an act of joy because Christ has redeemed us! He has opened out eyes and led us out of the dungeon of sin.







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