The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord
The mystery of Christ’s baptism in the Jordan by St John, the Precursor, proposes the contemplation of an already adult Jesus. This mystery is infinitely linked to the Solemnities of the Lord’s birth and the Epiphany that we have just celebrated, as in some ways it takes up and represents their significance to us.
At Christmas we have contemplated the human birth of the Word incarnate by the Virgin Mary. In the 4th century, the Fathers of the Church deepened the understanding of the faith with regard to the Christmas mystery in the light of Jesus’ Humanity. They spoke of the Incarnation of the Word already working like the ‘Christification’ of that humanity that he had assumed from His mother. Or put in simpler terms: Jesus is the Christ from the first instant of conception in Mary’s spotless womb because He Himself, with His Divine Power, consecrated, anointed and ‘Christified’ that human nature with which He became incarnate.
In the mystery of the Epiphany, we then meditated on Christ’s manifestation to all nations that was represented by the Magi, the wise men from the East, who came to adore the Child.
Now, in the mystery of Christ’s Baptism in the Jordan River, we again encounter and represent the truth of the Lord’s incarnation and His manifestation as the Christ. Jesus’ Baptism is in fact His definitive manifestation as the Messiah or Christ to Israel, and as the Son of the Father to the entire world. Here we find the dimension of the Epiphany which was His manifestation to all nations. The Father’s voice from heaven shows that Jesus of Nazareth is the eternal Son and the descent of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove shows the Trinitarian nature of the Christian God. The true and unique God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, shows Himself in Christ, through Him, with Him and in Him.
The Baptism in the Jordan returns to the great Christmas theme of ‘Christification,’ Jesus of Nazareth’s spiritual anointing, His presentation as the Anointed One par excellence, the Messiah or the One sent by the Father for the salvation of mankind. The Spirit that descended on Jesus shows and seals in an incontrovertible way the ‘Christification’ of Jesus’ humanity that the Word had already fulfilled from the first moment of His miraculous conception by Mary. Jesus, from the very beginning, was always the Lord’s Christ, He was always God. Yet, His one, true humanity, that which is perfect in every way, as the Gospel records, constantly grew in natural and supernatural perfection. ‘And Jesus increased in wisdom, in stature, and in favour with God and with men’ (Lk2:52). In Israel at 30 years of age, one reached full maturity and therefore could become a master. Jesus came of age and the Spirit, descending and remaining on Him, definitively consecrated His whole being as the Christ.
The same Spirit, that descended on the water of the River Jordan wafted over the waters during the first creation (Gen 1:2). Therefore, the Baptism in the Jordan presents yet another truth: that Jesus has started a new creation. He is the second man (1 Cor 15:47) or the last Adam (1 Cor 15:45), that comes to repair the first Adam’s guilt. He does this as the Lamb of God that takes away our sins. ‘Looking at the events in light of the Cross and Resurrection, the Christian people realised what happened: Jesus loaded the burden of all mankind’s guilt upon His shoulders; he bore it down into the depths of the Jordan. He inaugurated his public activity by stepping into the place of sinners’ (Joseph Ratzinger, Jesus of Nazareth, Bloomsbury 2007, p 18).
Excerpted from the Congregation for the Clergy
BOOK OF HEAVEN
September 14, 1921
Each time the soul does her acts in the Divine Will, she grows more and more in sanctity.
Continuing in my usual state, my always lovable Jesus, on coming, told me: “My daughter (Luisa), each time the soul does her acts in my Will, she grows more and more before Me in wisdom, in goodness, in power and beauty. In fact, as she keeps repeating her acts in my Will, she takes more bites of wisdom, of goodness, etc.; and the soul grows with the food from which she feeds herself. This is why in the Holy Gospel it is written that I grew in wisdom before God and before men. As God, I could neither grow nor decrease. My growth was just in my Humanity which, growing in age, came to multiply my acts in the Supreme Volition; and each additional act I did was additional growth in the Wisdom of the Celestial Father. This growth of Mine was so true that even creatures noticed it. Each one of my acts ran in the immense sea of the Divine Will; and as I operated, I nourished Myself with this Celestial Food. It would take too long to tell you about the seas of Wisdom, of Goodness, of Beauty and Power that my Humanity swallowed in every additional act It performed.
The same happens to the soul. My daughter (Luisa), Sanctity in the Divine Will grows in every instant – there is nothing that can escape from growing, and that the soul cannot let flow in the infinite sea of my Will. The most indifferent things – sleep, food, work, etc. – can enter into my Will and take their place of honor as agents of my Will. If only the soul wants it so, all things, from the greatest to the smallest, can be opportunities to enter my Will – which does not happen with virtues. In fact, if one wants to exercise the virtues, many times the occasion is missing. If the soul wants to exercise obedience, it takes someone who commands her, and it may happen that for days and weeks there is no one to give new orders for her to obey; therefore, as much as goodwill to obey as she might have, poor obedience will remain idle. The same with patience, humility and all the other virtues; since they are virtues of this low world, other creatures are needed in order to exercise them. On the other hand, my Will is virtue of Heaven, and I alone am enough to maintain the soul every instant in continuous exercise. It is easy for Me to keep her up night and day, in order to maintain her exercised in my Will.”