Homily for the Baptism of the Lord - Year A - Mt. 3:13-17
Canon Dr. Daniel Meynen
" Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, «I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?» But Jesus answered him, «Let it be so now; for thus it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness.» Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized, he went up immediately from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting on him; and lo, a voice from heaven, saying, «This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.» "
" Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. "
On the Sunday that follows the Epiphany of the Lord, the Church commemorates the baptism of Jesus. This Sunday is consecrated to the memory of the beginning of Christ's mission. For Jesus began his mission, like any Christian does, by being baptized by one of those who are charged with representing him on earth. John the Baptist is indeed the figure of the Church, but primarily he is the one who resembles Christ, and who therefore represents him among the people of his time. When John the Baptist baptizes, he is the figure of the Church that baptizes. When Jesus is baptized by John, he is the figure of the man or woman who is baptized by the Church. Baptism inaugurates the mission of the newly-baptized; Jesus inaugurates his mission by being baptized by John.
" John would have prevented him, saying, «I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?» But Jesus answered him, «Let it be so now; for thus it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness.» Then he consented. "
Saint Matthew is the only evangelist who relates these words of the Lord; Saint Mark and Saint Luke don't mention them. It is clear that John the Baptist is right: it is he who needs to be baptized by Jesus, and not the other way around. But it often happens that what we initially think are reasonable plans and predictions must eventually be rejected: for God, who knows all things, foresees something else, about which we presently have no knowledge, and which we must do instead of what we ourselves had foreseen. This is what took place at the baptism of Jesus. John the Baptist had foreseen this meeting with the Master (cf. John 1:26), but he didn't expect the events that actually took place at that meeting.
John the Baptist obeyed Christ's order: "Let it be so now." Jesus said: "now." For it is often the case that God ordains that something must be done now, something which is other than what we ourselves had foreseen, and then allows us the liberty to carry out what we had originally intended to do. God momentarily puts us to the test in order to see if we are faithful to him. Then he allows us to act according to our will. For, once we have passed the test, what we do will be in accordance with his will, a will which we will have already embraced with faith and love, and which will be one with our own will.
At the heart of Jesus' baptism is obedience! Didn't Jesus carry out his mission in order to obey his Father? When Jesus would be baptized in his blood, would he not be obedient even unto death, "death on a cross" (Phil. 2:8)? There is no doubt about it: obedience is at the very heart of baptism! That's why John the Baptist must obey Jesus, because they are similar: while Jesus obeys his Father in being baptized in order to inaugurate his mission, John the Baptist, for his part, must obey Jesus in order to inaugurate, as a figure, a new baptism, that of the Church!
Obedience demands faith: we must believe that what we are told to do by he who commands us is what we must do. This is "the obedience of faith" (Rm. 1:5)! Now, faith is that which, through grace, makes us righteous before God: "He who through faith is righteous shall live." (Hab. 2:4 - Rm. 1:17) Therefore, baptism allows us to obtain, through God's mercy, his own righteousness, which is the supreme, full and whole righteousness; that's why Jesus concluded by saying to John the Baptist: "For thus it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness."
" And when Jesus was baptized, he went up immediately from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting on him; and lo, a voice from heaven, saying, «This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.» "
Baptism makes us righteous and friends of God: it makes us children of the heavenly Father! Principally, what Jesus wanted to manifest to us through his baptism was the voice of the Father, our Father! If the Father and the Holy Spirit appeared when Jesus came up out of the water, it was because Jesus himself had wanted it to be so. Indeed, if Jesus accomplishes the will of his Father by inaugurating his mission with his baptism in the Jordan, his will and that of his Father are one: what Jesus wants is what his Father wants! Didn't Jesus say, on the day before his Passion, at the moment when he was going to accomplish the supreme will of his Father: "Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in me... All that the Father has is mine." (John 14:11 - 16:15)
Jesus wanted to show us the Holy Trinity at the time of his baptism! However, is there not a better time to manifest to us the divine Trinity? For us here today, there is indeed a better moment: that of the eucharistic celebration! Jesus said: "As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me." (John 6:57) He who receives communion already lives the divine Trinitarian life! He who receives Jesus within him becomes an adoptive son of God! Let us ask Mary, during this eucharistic celebration, to help us to receive her divine Son, so that, being true children of God, we might also be her own children!