Feast of the Baptism of our Lord: “Walking in the Spirit”
Isaiah 42:1-7; Psalm 29; Acts 8:14-17; Luke 3:15-16, 21-22
Epiphany is God manifesting, revealing, and manifesting Himself to be known to us. Hebrews says that God spoke in many ways and in many times through the prophets. As in those days, God speaks to us today through His Son. God wants to speak to us because He wants us to know Him, and He is making Himself known to us always and everywhere. We see God through the people we see daily, our loved ones, our enemies, and through the things that we do daily. God is in the least of our brothers, in good and bad situations. May we behold Christ and open our eyes to see and taste the goodness of God.
The liturgy is designed for us to know God. It is not just to see Him, but to involve all of our senses – like we smell the incense; we see the icons, the images; we taste the Lord in the Eucharist. In Him, we live and move and exist. God wants us to see Him and to make Him known, and this is the message of the Epiphany.
In the baptism of Jesus, we see the manifestation of the Trinity: the Holy Spirit, the form of a dove, descending upon Jesus, the Son of God, and God the Father saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
It was a Roman era that they were living in, and they had this augury, which was the practice of the Romans of interpreting omens through the behavior of the birds, particularly the eagle. When the eagle is seen flying over Caesar, it meant to them that God was pleased with the “son of God” where the spirit of God is hovering over his chosen one. In the Jordan scene, the baptism of Jesus was sending a subversive message to the empire of Rome saying that there is a new King, real Son of God, who will replace Caesar. The symbol is not of an eagle, but of a dove, which means meekness, humility and peace, with God Himself speaking, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. He is the new ruler; He is the real King; He is the anointed One.”
A dove was used to speak of peace, not violence. Similarly during Palm Sunday, Jesus, as King, did not ride on a war horse, but on a donkey for His kingdom meant service, giving dignity to people instead of marginalizing them. The kingdom of God is very different. It was a dove, not an eagle; a donkey, not a warhorse; a lamb, not a beast. Our King is One who does not oppresses, but One who heals and restores. We who were baptized, we whom Jesus identified, will reign with Him.
What was the reason Jesus Christ was baptized? The baptism of John was of repentance. Jesus did not need to repent because He did not sin, but He was baptized to identify with us, with our sins. Jesus effectively participated in a public act of repentance and identified with us. Scriptures says that He wasn’t ashamed of His brothers and He knew that His brothers need deliverance from their sins, so Jesus identified with them by saying, “We confess to Almighty God that we have sinned.” When Jesus took on flesh, He identified with us. He felt what we feel. He walked where we walk. He entered time, space to identify with us. He became one with us when He bore our sins.
There was this story of a man who fell on a very deep hole and he cried for help. Help came from an intelligent professor, but he scolded the man for being so careless and the professor left the man. There came a priest who tried to stretch out his hand so that he could get hold of the man’s hand. However, he wasn’t able to get hold of the man’s hand, so the priest told him that he will just pray for him and the priest left him. Then, Jesus came. What Jesus did was to jump into the hole, let the man step up on His shoulders and His hands so that the man could get out of the hole. The story’s title is “Personal Involvement”. Often times, it is easy for us to point fingers, to blame others for their situations. However, our mission is to identify with other people even if we are not at fault so that we are able to help towards deliverance and restoration.
Jesus joined us in the pit and rescued us. When He went into the waters of Jerusalem, He identified with us. He cleansed the water so that all that were baptized were cleansed from their sins. This is when God the Father was well pleased. God is not watching us from a distance. He became one with us. Jesus came down and become incarnate to identify with us. He jumped into the pit where we are in to a point of death and He lifted us. He is Emmanuel; God with us. He became flesh to a point of God-forsakenness that He said on the cross, “My God, My God, why has Thou forsaken Me?”
Pope Benedict said, “Jesus loaded the burden of all humanity’s guilt upon His shoulders; He bore it down into the depths of the Jordan. He inaugurated His public activity by stepping into the place of sinners. His inaugural gesture is an anticipation of the cross.” When Jesus did this, God the Father said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Jesus Christ’s baptism reinforces the Incarnation message of solidarity of brothers. He is one with us and where we are in.
The Pharisees believed in repentance, but not for themselves. They went to Jordan, stood at the bank of the rivers to watch the sinners repent. They believed that they were not sinners. They had the attitude of “us and them.” Jesus who was sinless had a right to say this but He did not. We need to have the Jesus’ attitude in us. We are sharers of His mission. He not only identified with our sins but bore our sins, so we identify with His mission of forgiving sins. This is the nature of His ministry, and this is the nature of our mission. He doesn’t condemn. A bruised reed He will not break, and a dimly burning wick, He will not extinguish.
Jesus is our dove, donkey, lamb; a peaceful, meek, serving (beast of burden). He carried the weight of burden of His brothers. It was against a violent predator imperialism that takes advantage of the weak. Jesus’ mission is not of condemnation but of peace, humility, service, and building one another. We share with His mission. We confess that we sin. It may not be our fault, but the sin of others affects us.
Let us not like be Adam and Eve who pointed to each other and even to God as the culprit for their sin thus, all of creation was being subject to futility. Our mission is to hasten the coming of the new world and the new heavens because we are one body with Him, where He is our Head. What He did pleased God. Jesus stripped Himself of His garments, and identified with us. We are to empathize, to identify with our brother’s situation, jumping into the pit to help them by setting them up in our shoulders because we share in Jesus’ ministry.
Saul persecuted Jesus and Jesus said to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” He was not asking Saul why he was persecuting the Christians in Damascus, but Jesus was pointing to Himself because He was identifying with His brethren. He said, “What you do to the least of My brothers, you did it to Me. If you feed them, you feed Me. If you give them something to drink when they are thirsty, you do it to Me. If you clothe them, you do it to Me. I am one with them.”
Through us, the Incarnation continues. We are to be an epiphany. We are Jesus’ hands, His feet, His representatives, His ambassadors, sharing in the ministry of reconciliation. If we are one with Him in the Body, we are also one with His attitude. Jesus stripped of Himself, humbled Himself, and obeyed His Father even to the point of death. This is how we fulfill our ministry of reconciliation. God is speaking to us as though God was appealing to us, reaching out to us to be reconciled to Him.
1John 1:1-4 shares, “What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life – and the life was manifested, and we have seen testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested to us – what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete.”
Experience the fullness of joy so that God may be well pleased with us. This is why Jesus Christ was baptized. This is why we were baptized. This is God’s initiative of reconciliation. This is our minsitry of reconciliation, and this is the way it is in the kingdom of our God.