Reflection: The Baptism of the Lord

Chinese Mass:Every Sunday 2:15 p.m

Our Lady of the Assumption RC Church, Assumption Priory, Victoria Park Square, Bethnal Green E2 9PB (map)

 Mass is conducted in a mix of Cantonese and Mandarin

After Mass you are welcome to join the community for a tea gathering


[1st Reading – Is.42:1-4, 6-7; Ps.28; 2nd Reading – Acts 10:34-38; Gospel – Mt.3:13-17]

The first thing that we are told in today’s gospel is that ‘Jesus appeared’!  It seems that he was not yet known and he came from Galilee to the Jordan in order to be baptised by John the Baptist.  John seems to already know Jesus well and he even recognised him as the Messiah because he tried to dissuade Jesus to receive the baptism from him.  John is still thinking about his baptism and the repentance from sins, as John tells Jesus that it should be the other way round, i.e. he should be the one who needs to receive the baptism from Jesus.  Yet, Jesus tells John that, for the time being, he should receive the baptism of John because it is fitting to do all that righteousness demands.

What is righteousness demanding?  As Jesus is not yet known, he comes to John because he wants to receive the baptism from John.  Surely, the baptism that he received is not the baptism for the repentance of sins, which we know, from other texts, was John’s baptism. Jesus had no sins!  Yet, for the time being, Jesus tells John that they have to do this… for the sake of righteousness.  Here was John in the image of the Old Testament Prophet who was the one to prepare the way of the Lord.  John was the one who was to show and present Christ to the world.  This was John’s purpose in life.  By Jesus receiving John’s baptism, John demonstrated who Jesus is: the Christ.  This was further confirmed by the Spirit of God descending on Jesus like a dove ‘from heaven’ and (a father’s) voice speaking ‘from heaven’.  So, through the action of John the Baptist, the Father and the Holy Spirit both showed us who Jesus is: ‘The Son of God, the Beloved, on whose God’s favour rested’.  Thus although at the start of today’s gospel, the unknown Jesus appeared coming from Galilee, by the end of the same gospel, we are told that Jesus is known by God the Father and by the Holy Spirit.

Although John the Baptist was seeing in the baptism that he was giving to everyone (as well as to Jesus), the repentance and the ‘forgiveness of sins’ that he was preaching while baptising, Jesus was seeing something different.  Jesus was demanding and seeing what righteousness demanded and the action of the Holy Spirit.  The action of the Holy Spirit was the manifestation of Jesus to those around him, to the world.  Through this action, Jesus is manifested for who he really is.  Not what others think about him, but what God himself is witnessing: Jesus is the Son of God!

John himself would not have been able to give this evidence.  John’s purpose was only to prepare the way which he had done by showing who Jesus is.  He might have said other things about Jesus, but it had to be the extraordinary action of the Holy Spirit who descended on Jesus like a ‘dove’ (perhaps echoing Noah’s Ark and the covenant) and of the Father’s voice (perhaps echoing the creation), that could give evidence to what and who Jesus is: the Son of God, one with the Father and with the Holy Spirit.  And we know that Jesus was accompanied by God the father and the Holy Spirit throughout his entire life.

We too have received our baptism and have received the Holy Spirit – but are we letting this Spirit work within us for the sake of righteousness?

“Lord, through your baptism we have life and you made us one with you, one with the Father and one with the Holy Spirit.  Help us to be attentive to your voice and to the will of God to be able to do what he asks of us, for the sake of righteousness.  Thank you Lord!”

Fr. Jesmond Pawley, OFM Conv.

(Permission to reproduce on this site by Fr. Jesmond, St. Patrick’s RC Church, Waterloo )

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