The Baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ

SHOOTING STRAIGHT - Valeriano Avila - The Freeman

Last week we celebrated the Epiphany of our Lord Jesus Christ and a week later our gospel reading today comes from Matt.3:13-17, which is about the Baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ. I’d like to emphasize that while it is only a week after the visit of the Magi, our gospel today focuses on the Baptism of Jesus, which actually happens at the beginning of his Galilean ministry when he was already 30 years old. Today’s Catholics get baptized when they are still babies, which is totally different 2,000 years ago. Let’s read the gospel according to Matthew.

“13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him.14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him,[a] and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

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Today is the Baptism of Jesus Christ by John the Baptist in the River Jordan. So let’s start with the beginning of today’s gospel, which said, “13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.”

This conversation by the cousins John the Baptizer and our Lord Jesus was certainly picked up by the evangelist Matthew. This gives us an idea that finally when the two met in the River Jordan, they both know their respective roles and, of course, John knew that he should be baptized by our Lord Jesus, rather than him baptizing the Lord.

So this brings us to the question about the difference of John’s Baptism and that of our Lord Jesus Christ. After a little research, we learned that the Baptism of John was a Baptism of repentance so as the person baptized would be prepared for the greater Baptism that our Lord Jesus Christ gave, which is the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. This was the earliest form of Christian Baptism that not only cleanses us of our sins, but also gives us the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which today is accepted as a sacrament of the Catholic Church.

The Baptism of John is what is called the Baptism of Water, which is a symbol and declaration of a person who desires to serve God and worship him. However let me point out that John’s Baptism of Water does not remove Original Sin from the person being baptized. But this does not make the Baptism of John of lesser importance.

As we pointed out, the Baptism of Jesus is one of Holy Spirit. We read in the Bible that the first occurrence of this “Baptism” was Pentecost 36 CE when those in the “upper room” were baptized or anointed by the Holy Spirit with each one bearing tongues of fire over their heads. And the result of this Baptism was that thousands were converted into what was now called Christianity, which is has been elevated by the Catholic Church into a sacrament.

Of course, we take note that during the Baptism of John, the person seeking to be baptized is immersed into the River Jordan. More often than not his whole body is immersed into the water. How things have changed since then, which is why the Catholic Church grew by leaps and bounds in the Middle Ages, when children were baptized while they are only a few days old. This meant that when a couple bears a lot of children, it also helped increase the members of the Catholic Church and it has been this way since. However, very old Catholic countries no longer have large family populations, which is why their churches are becoming empty.

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