Life & Soul Life and Soul

The Word this week

A detail from The Baptism of Christ (1567), by Juan Fernández Navarrete

The Baptism of the Lord
Is 42:1-4 & 6-7; Acts 10:34-38; Lk 3:15-16 & 21-22 (Year C)

“Now, while Jesus after his own baptism was at prayer, heaven opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily shape, like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the beloved; my favour rests on you.’”

The baptism of Jesus was, in the deepest sense, a foreshadowing of our own baptism. John the Baptist, prior to the baptism of Jesus, had spoken of the one who was to come, someone who would baptise them with the Holy Spirit and fire. The meaning of this baptism was revealed as Jesus prayed following his own baptism in the Jordan.

Luke tells us that the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus in bodily form, and that the Father was heard to acknowledge him as his Son, the Beloved, upon whom his favour rested. The scene depicts a truly Trinitarian life in which Jesus was empowered by the Holy Spirit and sustained in the love of his Father. His life, death and Resurrection were an invitation to share the life that was his with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Through our own baptism in the name of Jesus, we too are empowered by the Holy Spirit and rejoice to be claimed as children of the Father.

The Servant Songs of the prophet Isaiah foreshadow perfectly the ministry entrusted to Jesus at his baptism. “Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom my soul delights. I have endowed him with my spirit that he may bring true justice to the nations.”

The ministry of Jesus, like the one described by the prophet Isaiah, would become a gentle invitation to healing. “He does not cry out or shout aloud, or make his voice heard in the streets. He does not break the crushed reed, nor quench the wavering flame.” Such was the invitation of Jesus as he invited a sinful people to shoulder his yoke, to learn from his humility and gentleness of heart.

Peter’s address to Cornelius, the first gentile received into baptism, emphasised the inclusive nature of our baptismal call: “The truth I have now come to realise is that God does not have favourites, but that anybody of any nationality who fears God and does what is right is acceptable to him.” In baptism, a loving Father heals and brings to life a sinful people through his Son Jesus Christ and in the power of the Holy. This grace became ours on the day of our baptism.