St. Augustine of Canterbury Parish
“I have baptized you with water;
but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” (Mark 1:8)
Baptism of the Lord is one of the mysteries or events of the public life of Jesus. In fact,
“Jesus’ public life begins with his baptism by John in the Jordan. [First John baptized] a
crowd of sinners [such as] tax collectors, soldiers, Pharisees, and Sadducees. ‘Then Jesus
[came to receive baptism]. John the Baptist hesitates, but Jesus insists and receives
baptism” (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, 535).
John the Baptist hesitates to baptize Jesus because John thinks he is not completely up to
the task to baptize Jesus:
“John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness,
proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
In his preaching he proclaimed,
‘The one who is more powerful than I
is coming after me;
I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals.’” (Mark 1:6-7)
Although John was hesitating, Jesus uses his baptism to re-assure him to continue his
work as his forerunner and precursor. Jesus instills in and fills with John the Baptist the
Spirit of courage, fortitude and strength to continue his good works. As we celebrate the
baptism of the Lord, maybe there is someone who is hesitating to continue the good
works (in the family, in the group, in the church, at work, in public, etc.), that is why
Jesus is encouraging that person today not to give up the good work. Maybe there is
someone who feels that he/she is not worthy to move to the next step of continuing the
good works and the mission of the Lord, so Jesus is using his own baptism to strengthen
that person to carry on his/her works because Jesus himself is accompanied with the Holy
Spirit. That is why John the Baptist says: “I have baptized you with water; but he will
baptize you with the Holy Spirit” (Mark 1:8). In deed, Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit
so that all who observe his baptism might hear “a voice from heaven [saying], ‘You are
my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased’” (Mark 1:11).
For sure, Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit that is why after his baptism “just as he was
coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a
dove on him” (Mark 1:10). One great good news of the baptism of Jesus the heavens
might be once more opened to those who will accept to carry out the good works and the
mission of Christ.
If Jesus travelled all the way from Nazareth to be baptized in the Jordan, he did so
because he wants all of us to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit: “In those days Jesus
came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan” (Mark 1:9).
Therefore, it does not matter where we stay, Jesus still travels from heaven to reach out to
us so that we might hear a voice of God, so that the Spirit might descend upon us too, and
also so that the heavens might always be opened to us, as well as to others.
Jesus travels towards us; therefore, we do not have to hesitate to be with him in his public
life today. We do not have to hesitate to show in public life the word of Jesus proclaimed
to us these days. We do not have to hesitate to do what Jesus is insisting and asking us to
do in public life or in our families these days. Like John the Baptist, we do not hesitate to
allow Jesus to encourage us and to tell us what to do.
As we celebrate the baptism of the Lord, we do not hesitate to proclaim that Jesus is the
Beloved Son, with whom God is well pleased; therefore, Jesus is our Beloved, with
whom we too are well pleased. Like St. John, we can also proclaim the testimony that
Jesus is our Beloved in whom we put all our faith and love in order to conquer the world:
“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ
has been born of God,
and everyone who loves the parent loves the child.
By this we know that we love the children of God,
when we love God and obey his commandments.
For the love of God is this,
that we obey his commandments.
And his commandments are not burdensome,
for whatever is born of God conquers the world.
And this is the victory that conquers the world,
Who is it that conquers the world
but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
This is the one who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ,
not with the water only but with the water and the blood.
And the Spirit is the one that testifies,
for the Spirit is the truth.
There are three that testify:
the Spirit and the water and the blood,
and these three agree.
If we receive human testimony,
the testimony of God is greater;
for this is the testimony of God
that he has testified to his Son.” (1 John 5.1-9)
When we celebrate the baptism of the Lord, like the Prophet Isaiah we want to ask the
Lord to give us the living water of the Spirit in order to satisfy our thirst and hunger so
that his mercy, pardon, and success might be upon us:
“Everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and you that have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread?
and your labour for that which does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.
Incline your ear, and come to me;
listen, so that you may live.
I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
my steadfast, sure love for David.
See, I made him a witness to the peoples,
a leader and commander for the peoples.
See, you shall call nations that you do not know,
and nations that do not know you shall run to you,
because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel,
for he has glorified you.
Seek the Lord while he may be found,
call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake their way,
and the unrighteous their thoughts;
let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
and do not return there until they have watered the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so, shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55.1-11)
Jesus does not need baptism but he accepts baptism in order to identify with all the things
that each human person suffers and endures. Therefore, “the baptism of Jesus is on his
part the acceptance and inauguration of his mission as God's suffering Servant. He allows
himself to be numbered among sinners; [in his baptism], he is already ‘the Lamb of God,
who takes away the sin of the world’. [in his baptism], already he is anticipating the
baptism of his bloody death. Already he is coming to ‘fulfil all righteousness’, that is, he
is submitting himself entirely to his Father's will: out of love he consents to this baptism
of death for the remission of our sins. The Father's voice responds to the Son's acceptance
[of his mission], [by] proclaiming his entire delight in his Son. The Spirit whom Jesus
possessed in fullness from his conception comes to ‘rest on him’. Jesus will be the source
of the Spirit for all [humanity].
At his baptism ‘the heavens were opened’- [that is,] the heavens that Adam's sin had
closed - and the waters were sanctified by the descent of Jesus and the Spirit, a prelude to
the new creation” (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, 536).
As we celebrate the baptism of the Lord, we affirm that “through baptism the Christian is
sacramentally assimilated to Jesus, who in his own baptism anticipates his death and
resurrection. the Christian must enter into this mystery of humble self-abasement and
repentance, go down into the water with Jesus in order to rise with him, be reborn of
water and the Spirit so as to become the Father's beloved son in the Son and ‘walk in
newness of life’” (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, 537).
Jesus accepts the baptism to help each human person, so what do we accept to continue
the good works of the Lord? During the baptism of Jesus, the heavens were opened so
what are we doing to keep the heavens opened to everyone? What are we doing so that
God might say he is well pleased with us?