And a voice came from the heavens, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Mt 3:17).
These words echo from the heavens as Jesus rises from the waters of the Jordan River from which he has just been baptized. This passage from Matthew gives us a glimpse of the Mystery of the Trinity. The Spirit of God descended like a dove on the one whom God the Father proclaimed as his Son.
We celebrate each Christmas Season the birth of Jesus who is the Son of God in the flesh. Jesus remained divine, fully God as he became fully human. Jesus entered into our human condition so that he could redeem us. For if he is not human, he could not redeem what he was not. If he is not divine, he would not have the power to redeem us. Our redemption is beyond our capacity as finite human beings.
The Season of Christmas ends on today’s feast of Jesus’ baptism. Jesus did not come to John to be baptized because of his sin. Jesus embraced all aspects of our humanity, yet he did so in all things but sin. John the Baptist made this clear in today’s reading. For as Jesus approached him to be baptized, John tried to prevent him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?” Jesus came “to fulfill all righteousness”(cf. Mt 3:14-15) by carrying our sins with him to the waters of the Jordan, as he would do again on the Cross.
We who are baptized are baptized into the death and new life of Jesus. We are born again through the working of the same Spirit who “overshadowed” (cf Lk 1:35) Mary, descended like a dove over Jesus as he rose from the waters of the Jordan, and brought back Jesus from the depths of his descent into Hell. In becoming one with us in our humanity, Jesus, though he did not sin, took upon himself the sin of the world and conquered it and death. Through our participation in his life, we do as well. We become a part of his new creation where death does not have the last word.
One of the gifts of our final months, weeks, and days together was that both JoAnn and I could feel the closeness of the Holy Spirit. Our love for God and each other continued to grow. We continued to learn about and seek to understand our differences. We certainly experienced sadness but never lost hope or succumbed to despair. We continued to be there for one another each step of the way. Jesus died for us that he could be with us in our darkest hours. He was present and accompanied us, and I know he has led JoAnn home where she now intercedes for us.
Jesus is just as present in your life as he is in ours. That is why we celebrate this Feast of the Baptism of the Lord today, to recall again that Jesus became one with us, to take upon himself our sin to free and redeem us so that we can become one with him and his Father as we share the love between them the Holy Spirit.
Photo: JoAnn and I outside Keck School of Medicine USC