Year C: The Baptism of the Lord (First Sunday in Ordinary Time)
The Baptism of the Lord
Luke 3: 15-16, 21-22
Now the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Messiah. John answered them all, saying, “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved son, with you I am well pleased.”
- Do you sometimes lose sight of the importance of your baptismal promises? What does your baptism mean to you today?
- What would you say are the “essentials” of living the Christian life, and how are you doing living those precepts?”
- In what ways have you experienced the power of God’s Spirit in your life?
- How has this community of men and our weekly discussions helped you to live your baptismal promises more consciously?
- Do you think of yourself as God’s beloved? Why or why not?
Luke 3:15-16, 21-22
Margaret Nutting Ralph PHD
On the first Sunday of Ordinary Time (that time in the liturgical year when we are not celebrating a special season like Advent or Christmas) we celebrate Jesus’ baptism. The first part of today’s reading, in which John the Baptist denies that he is the messiah, we read on the third Sunday of Advent: “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
We discussed the distinction between John’s baptism and Jesus’ in the commentary for that Sunday. Our Lectionary reading then omits John’s description of Jesus’ ministry as one in which Jesus will be primarily a judge: “His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire” (Luke 3:17). Luke also tells us that Herod has had John imprisoned.
It is after Jesus has been baptized and is praying that the Spirit descends upon Jesus and the voice from heaven speaks: “After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” By picturing the voice saying these words, Luke is once more alluding to Old Testament passages in order to teach the significance of New Testament events. When we recognize the allusions, we will understand the teaching.
The words “You are my beloved Son” are an allusion to Psalm 2. Psalm 2 is a messianic psalm, that is, it speaks of the messiah, the anointed one (the word messiah means “anointed”) whom God would send to save God’s people. The Israelites understood their kings to be God’s anointed. This psalm would have been sung over the centuries to honor the king.
“I myself have set up my king on Zion, my holy mountain.” (Ps 2:6)
Then the king speaks:
I will proclaim the decree of the Lord:
The Lord said to me, “You are my son; this day I have begotten you.
Ask of me and I will give you the nations for an inheritance and the ends of
the earth for your possession. (Ps 2:7-8)
By alluding to this psalm Luke is once more teaching what he has already taught in his story of the annunciation to Mary: Jesus is God’s son, begotten of God. The words “with you I am well pleased” are an allusion to the Book of Isaiah and are part of our Old Testament Lectionary reading for this First Sunday in Ordinary Time. As we will soon see, by alluding to this passage Luke is foreshadowing Jesus’ passion and death and teaching that Jesus is God’s suffering servant whose passion and death redeemed all nations.
Selections from Breaking Open the Lectionary: Lectionary Readings in Their Biblical Context for RCIA, Faith Sharing Groups, and Lectors—Cycle C, by Margaret Nutting Ralph, Copyright © 2006 by Margaret Nutting Ralph. Paulist Press, Inc., New York/Mahwah, NJ. Reprinted by permission of
Paulist Press, Inc. www.paulistpress.com.
We Are Called
Deacon Ross Beaudoin
Can you remember your baptism? Not many of us can, because most of us were baptized as infants. In the early church it was adults who were baptized. Only later did it become common to baptize infants. When adults are baptized, they speak for themselves and their intention to accept the demands of the Christian life. Infants have godparents to speak for them. When infants grow up, however, they must come to an understanding and acceptance of the gift and responsibilities of their baptism.
In today’s Gospel, we read of John baptizing adults in the Jordan River. This was a “baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sin” (Mark 1:4). This baptism of John was not Christian baptism as we know it. At the time of the Baptist, many of the Hebrew people “were filled with expectation,” looking for the coming of the Messiah, the Christ. John’s baptism gave them a chance to prepare themselves. At the same time, John made it clear that the Messiah would bring a different baptism, one “with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
Now, Jesus showed up for John’s baptism. Jesus had no need to be baptized for the repentance of sins. But, as the first act in his public life, Jesus joined with ordinary people yielding to the grace of God. Jesus’ baptism by John sets a pattern for us. Jesus responded to the urging of the Spirit. The reign of God must be announced and established in the hearts of women and men. God’s reign was fully present in Jesus. He cooperated completely with the Spirit … the Spirit who had hovered over the waters of birth at creation and now hovered over the waters of the Jordan. It is the same Spirit who livened the waters of our baptism. “In one Spirit we [are] baptized into one body” (1 Cor 12:13).
Here at the Jordan Jesus committed himself to the establishment of the reign of God by his own life, in partnership with God’s Spirit. And we, in our baptism, commit to continue the establishment of the reign of God within ourselves, and to work for the growth of God’s reign throughout the world.
We say that we are “baptized into Christ.” As Christ was “priest, prophet, and king, so [we] are to live unto everlasting life.” That is an awesome and demanding responsibility. Baptism is not initiation into an exclusive club of rights and privileges. Baptism is initiation into Christ. We “put on Christ.” That is a call and a way of life, not a membership. After Vatican Council II, it almost seems unnecessary to restate these understandings about baptism. The charge of the council was for each of the baptized to live fully the Christian life. However, that will take a few generations to sink in and become fully operative.
Pope Francis, in his address in Philadelphia, talked about the history of the church as being not so much a history of building cathedral walls as one of Christians building lives and communities of love and service. He gave the example of U.S. saint Katharine Drexel. Katharine had asked Pope Leo XIII to meet the needs of the missions. Pope Leo responded, “What about you? What are you
doing?” What about me; what am I doing? What are you doing? Each one of us shares the baptism of water and the Spirit. Each one of us is equipped by grace, and we are sent to be Christ in the world today.
To the extent that we live and act as Christ in every corner of our lives, we, too, will be ready one day to hear the voice of God: “You are my [child], with you I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22).