|"The Baptism of Christ," from the Sistine Chapel. Pietro Perugino, 1482.
The Baptism of the Lord, January 12, 2020
Steps to Lectio Divina
Start by using these steps to reflect on the Scripture verse. Then read my meditation slowly.
Lectio: Having asked for the grace to hear God's word, read the passage twice.
Meditatio: During the second reading, pause whenever so moved and reflect on a word, a sentence, or an image that strikes you.
Oratio: Speak directly to God, and open your reflection to Him.
Contemplatio: Listen contemplatively for any response God might choose to make. Remember that God responds to us at times with loving silence.
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.”
The title “Christ” means Anointed One. Anointings signify being set apart by God for a specific purpose. So, how is Jesus set apart? In the Old Testament, we see anointings occur for priests, kings, and prophets. But these anointings utilized oil as a symbol of the Spirit of God and were administered by His representative. However, instead of a representative of God and a symbol of the Holy Spirit, in today’s Gospel we see God the Father and the Holy Spirit themselves acting on behalf of the Son.
Allusions to Jesus being anointed as a prophet are so layered in this scene. Not only are prophets in rare cases anointed themselves, but even the breaking open of the heavens and God speaking brings to mind the calling of the prophet Ezekiel, who was also called to his mission of service along the banks of a river and while the people of God were suffering under the weight of foreign oppression due to their sin.
Aaron and his sons washed before being vested and consecrated to the priesthood to offer sacrifices and intercede for the people. Besides this, the high priest was instructed to bathe before he entered the Holy of Holies to offer sacrifice on the Day of Atonement, in penitence for the sins of the people.
The Responsorial Psalm for this day cries out “The Lord is enthroned as King forever” (Ps 29:9-10). Kings in Israel were customarily anointed — like Saul and David were anointed by Samuel the prophet — thus signifying that God has set them apart for that purpose (1 Samuel 10:1 and 16:1-13). Yet today, Jesus is revealed as God’s Son, His Anointed, the long-awaited King of Israel.
Foreshadowing of this public anointing can be seen when Jesus is found in the temple and again when Jesus attends the wedding at Cana. But these, while telling, were only precursors to the pronouncement by God Himself of Jesus’ identity and mission. Today His identity and mission are no longer subject to speculation and they should be unmistakable to those who hear.
From this landmark event, Jesus went out to perform His active and public ministry on earth, which was about three years of teaching, healing, and freeing people from demonic possession.
Beginning tomorrow, let us venture into the first period of Ordinary Time and listen to the teachings of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Counting the weeks with the Church, let us always remember that God has truly come to free His people.
Callie Nowlin, MTS, is the Director of Religious Education for Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Abbott and Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Penelope.
Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
The title “Christ” means Anointed One. Anointings signify being set apart by God for a specific purpose. So, how is Jesus set apart?