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Monday, January 9, 2012

The Baptism of the Lord

The Baptism of Our Lord

With today's Feast of Jesus' Baptism the liturgical Season of Christmas concludes. The Child, who the Magi from the East came to adore at Bethlehem offering their symbolic gifts, we now find an adult, at the time when he is baptized in the Jordan River by the great Prophet John ( Matthew 3: 13).

The Gospel notes that after Jesus had received baptism and left the water, the heavens opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him like a dove (Matthew 3: 16). Then a voice was heard from heaven that said: "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3: 17). This was his first public manifestation after approximately 30 years of hidden life at Nazareth….

What is the meaning of this act that Jesus wishes to fulfill - overcoming the Baptist's resistance - in order to obey the Father's will (Matthew 3: 14-15)? The profound sense emerges only at the end of Christ's earthly existence, in his death and Resurrection. Being baptized by John together with sinners, Jesus began to take upon himself the weight of all of humanity's sin, like the Lamb of God who "takes away" the sin of the world (John 1: 29): an act which he brought to fulfillment on the Cross when he also received his "baptism" (Luke 12: 50). In fact, by dying he is "immersed" in the Father's love and the Holy Spirit comes forth, so that those who believe in him could be reborn by that inexhaustible font of new and eternal life. Christ's entire mission is summed up in this: to baptize us in the Holy Spirit, to free us from the slavery of death and "to open heaven to us". (Pope Benedict XVI on the Solemnity of the Baptism of the Lord January 13, 2008)

Baptism of Christ - Francesco Alban
The Seven Sacraments: Baptism - Nicolas Poussin
The Baptism of Christ - Jean Baptiste Camille Corot

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