Jesus Does Not Go Into the Water Alone; He Takes Us With Him

User’s Guide to Sunday: A Reflection on the Baptism of the Lord

Above is the central panel of the Baptism of Christ triptych in the Church of Our Lady Across the Dyle in Mechelen, Belgium.
Above is the central panel of the Baptism of Christ triptych in the Church of Our Lady Across the Dyle in Mechelen, Belgium. (photo: 2014 photo / Renata Sedmakova/Shutterstock)

Sunday, Jan. 9, is the Baptism of the Lord. Mass Readings: Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7; Psalm 29:1-2, 3-4, 3, 9-10; Acts 10:34-38; Luke 3:15-16, 21-22.

 Today’s feast of the Baptism of the Lord is a time to reflect on not only the Lord’s baptism, but our own. In an extended sense, when Christ is baptized, so are we, for we are members of his Body. As Christ enters the water, he makes holy the water that will baptize us. He enters the water, and we follow. In these waters, he acquires gifts to give us. 

 The text says, “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’” (Luke 3:22). 

Jesus acquires four gifts on our behalf: 

Access: The heavens are opened.The heavens and paradise were closed to us after original sin, but at Jesus’ baptism, they are opened. So, too, at our baptism, into Christ, the heavens open for us, and we have access to the Father and to the heavenly places. Scripture says, “For through Jesus we have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:17).

Anointing: The Spirit of God descends on him like a dove. Here, too, Jesus acquires the gift of the Holy Spirit for us. At our baptism we are not just washed of sins, but we also become temples of the Holy Spirit. After our baptism, we are anointed with chrism, signifying the presence of the Holy Spirit dwelling in the baptized as in a temple. Scripture says, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16).

Acknowledgment: “You are my beloved Son.” Jesus receives this acknowledgment from his Father for the faith of those who heard it and to acquire this gift for us. In our own baptism we become the children of God. Because we become members of Christ’s Body, we now have the status of sons and daughters of God. On the day of your baptism, the Heavenly Father acknowledges you as his own dear child. Scripture says, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Galatians 3:26).

Approval: “With you I am well pleased.” Jesus had always pleased his Father, but now he acquires this gift for us, as well. Our own baptism gives us sanctifying grace, the grace to be holy and pleasing to God. Scripture says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in his sight” (Ephesians 1:1-3).

 Thus, at his baptism, Christ acquires these gifts for us so that we can receive them at our own baptism. Consider well the glorious gift of your baptism. If you don’t know the date, find out. It should be a day as highly celebrated as your birthday. Christ was baptized for our sake, not his own. All these gifts had always been his: In his baptism, Jesus fulfilled God’s righteousness by going into the water to get them for you. It’s all right to say, “Hallelujah!”