This is My Beloved Son
by Rev. Jack Peterson
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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Mark wrote to explain Christ
to the new Gentile converts.
This is what John the Baptist proclaimed: "One mightier that I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."
It happened in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John. On coming out of the the water he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased."
Beginnings are important. The start of Jesus’ public ministry, which we joyfully celebrate today, was well planned by God the Father. Mary had been masterfully prepared, most notably in the Immaculate Conception, to be a worthy vessel through which God’s only-begotten Son would embrace our human condition. John the Baptist’s entrance into the world was prophesied and carefully brought about so that he could fittingly herald the coming of the Messiah.
Jesus Himself spent 30 years in the home at Nazareth preparing for the three years of public ministry that would change the world forever. The time was now for Our Lord to reveal His true identity and prepare His followers to embrace Him and His mission. So, we come to the river Jordan for an historic baptism.
In an instant, the identity and mission of Our Lord are revealed to the world. The Jewish people anxiously await the coming of the Messiah, the anointed one. The Messiah, according to the prophets, would be known because he would be anointed by the Spirit of God. When the Spirit is seen coming down upon Jesus at His baptism, it is a clear sign that God has finally sent the Messiah. But, God is always more generous than we can imagine, so He has a surprise to offer.
The Messiah is no ordinary human raised up by the hand of the Father to fulfill this role; rather, the Messiah is also God’s own beloved Son. This is a reality, a mystery that goes way beyond the wildest hopes of the people of God. Jesus is more precious than any of the prophets had foretold. God held this card close to His chest, but today He reveals to the world the treasure that He bestows upon us.
There is another very important revelation made this day. God wants the world to know from the start of Jesus’ public life that His saving work is a united effort on the part of the Holy Trinity. Because God is one, the three Persons always work in unison. The Father sends the Son to do His work in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Consequently, the baptism of Jesus is an occasion where the one God clearly revels Himself as a Trinity of Persons: the Spirit descends in the form of a dove and the voice of the Father proclaims to Jesus, “You are my beloved Son.” In addition to revealing the mission and identity of Jesus Christ, the Father crystallizes the mystery that He had slowly been revealing throughout the Old Testament: The one God consists of three divine Persons, Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.
The event at the river Jordan also reveals a new and deeper dimension to the mystery of the Incarnation. At His birth in Bethlehem, Jesus proclaims the humility and love of God who stoops down to untie our sandal strap. God crashes through the barrier of time and space and, in His infinite wisdom, takes on our humanity. He becomes a man like us in all things but sin to save us from sin and restore us to the fullness of life. This truth is almost too good to be true; it is impossible to comprehend without the free gift of faith.
But at His baptism, Jesus reveals a deeper dimension to His mission. He makes it clear that there is nothing superficial about His embrace of our human condition. In fact, He dives deeply into it. Although sinless Himself, Jesus takes on the pain and brokenness that results from our sin. His baptism represents His desire to fully embrace our sinful human condition in order to redeem it. St. Paul describes this realty when he says, “For our sake he (the Father) made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor 5:21)
While this event at the river Jordan was rich in revealed truths, it was also a promise and a prophecy. All that happens on this day points to the cross and to Easter morning. It is on the cross that the self-emptying of Christ would reach a crescendo, and it is on the “third day” that Jesus’ mission as Messiah and Savior would be fulfilled. The shadow of the cross was present throughout Jesus’ life on this earth.
While John carries out the monumental task of heralding the coming of God’s chosen One, God the Father does the heavy lifting at Jesus’ baptism. The Father reveals that Jesus is not only the Messiah but also His own beloved Son. The Father swiftly yet deftly manifests the mystery of the Holy Trinity. The Father makes clear from the start that His Son came to fully embrace our human condition in order to set us free from sin and death.
Heavenly Father, stir up the gift of your Holy Spirit given to us at our baptism so that we may believe with deep faith that Jesus is Lord and Savior.
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