Living the Word
Reflection for the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (Year C)
January 10, 2016
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.”
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Meister Eckhart, a medieval Dominican, once wrote, “As the special function of the eye is to see form and color, and of the ear to hear sweet tones and voices, aspiration is specific to the soul. To stop aspiring is sin. This energy of aspiration directed to and grasping God … is called hope, which is also a divine virtue. Through this faculty the soul acquires such confidence that she deems nothing in the Divine Nature beyond her reach” (Sermon 7).
We have a reason to hope because of the Incarnation. After all, this mystery of God becoming a human being — which we have celebrated this Christmas season — is why St. Paul was able to write to Titus, “He saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he richly poured out on us through Jesus Christ our savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life.”
To receive baptism is an act of humility and, in accepting John’s baptism, Jesus fully embraced what it means to be a human person, with all of humanity’s weakness, limitations and suffering. That Jesus, the Son of God, humbled himself in this way shows that he chose humility as the way he would redeem us. The Savior of the world did not come with any sort of fanfare or grandeur. Instead, after spending 30 years in an obscure, out-of-the-way village, he appeared quietly, in the company of sinners who were receiving John’s baptism of repentance.
Jesus never showed anything but the most profound compassion for those who were suffering. By accepting our humanity, and humbly embracing death, Jesus shows us how much God loves us: “In the four accounts of Jesus’ life and death [i.e., the Gospels], you can see very clearly that the more conscious he becomes of the mission entrusted to him by the Father, the more he realizes that the mission will make him poorer and poorer. He has been sent not only to console poor people, but also to give this consolation as one of them himself” (Henri Nouwen, Letters to Marc About Jesus).
Through our own baptism, we have been united with Christ and have been lifted up above our broken human nature, become sharers in God’s divine nature.
What does the baptism of Jesus teach you about humility?
What insights does the baptism of Jesus give you into the gift of your own baptism and your identity as the Father’s beloved child?
What gifts have you received from God during this Christmas season?
Words of Wisdom: “The Father of immortality sent his immortal Son and Word into the world; he came to us to cleanse us with water and the Spirit. … He breathed on us the spirit of life and armed us with incorruptibility. Now if we become immortal, we shall also be divine; and if we become divine after rebirth in baptism through water and the Holy Spirit, we shall also be coheirs with Christ after the resurrection of the dead” (St. Hippolytus).
Silas S. Henderson is in formation with the Society of the Divine Savior (the Salvatorians) and currently serves as the managing editor of Abbey Press Publications and Deacon Digest magazine. He is the author of numerous reflections and books. He can be found at www.fromseason2season.blogspot.com and www.facebook.com/SilasSHenderson.