Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Baptism of the Lord

The Baptism of Christ by Francesco Albani, painted 1630-35.

By Scott Hahn

Jesus presents himself for John's baptism in Sunday's Gospel – not because He is a sinner, but in obedience to God's design. He humbles himself, to take on the appearance of a sinner, so that we might be made righteous for God (see 2 Cor 5:21).

His baptism reveals that He is the Christ (literally, "anointed one") – the Spirit-endowed Servant promised by Isaiah in this Sunday's First Reading.

And his baptism marks the start of a new world, a new creation The Spirit descends upon Jesus, reminding us of the spirit that hovered like a dove ofver the face of the deep in creation (see Gen 1:2). As in the beginning, as the Jordan the Lord's majestic voice thunders above the waters.

As Peter preaches in Sunday's Second Reading, this baptism is a royal and priestly anointing. Through his anointing, Jesus is given the holy Spirit and power to fight the power of the devil.

He is revealed to be the fulfillment of God's preparations throughout Israel's history. He is "beloved son: give to Abraham (see Gen 22:2, 12, 26) and God's "first-born son," which is what He called Israel (see Exod 4:22-23). He is the divine son begotten by God, the everlasting heir promised to King David (see Psalm 2:7; 2 Sam 7:14). And he is, as Isaiah says, "a covenant of the people [Israel]" and "a light to the nations."

By his baptism he sanctified the waters of the Jordan and our baptismal watres. He opened the heavens to us and made it possible for he Spirit to be poured out upon us. In baptism, we are anointed with that same Spirit, mde beloved sons and daughters of God. Indeed, this is the meaning of Christians – literally "anointed ones."

We are the "sons of God" in this Sunday's Psalm – called to give glory to His name in His Temple. Let us pray that we always remain faithful to our calling as His children, that our Father might call us what he calls His Son – "my beloved ... in whom I am well pleased."

Dr. Scott Hahn is professor of theology at Franciscan University at Steubenville, Ohio. He was formerly a Presbyterian minister who converted to Catholicism in 1986. You can spend the day with Dr. Hahn on January 29 at Light of Christ Catholic Church in Clearwater. Lighthouse Catholic Media has many of his talks on CD or for download.

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