A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
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I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Jesus' Baptism and the Mass of Humanity: A Lectionary Reflection on Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

It is interesting that only Luke mentions that Jesus was baptized by John along with "all the people." In Jesus' baptism, he answers his calling and begins his ministry. And here is Luke 3:21-22, as Jesus enters the water of the Jordan River, he also identifies with the mass of humanity he has come to deliver.


In the Incarnation, God comes into the mess of the human situation. In Jesus, God, affirms the "stuff" of human existence, the very fabric of life-- being born of a woman as we all are, eating, drinking, sleeping, as we all do, laughing, crying, and suffering, as is the case with every one of us. And here in Luke 3, Jesus' symbolic act of baptism is an affirmation that he will not leave us in the mess of our existence. The cleansing water of baptism signifies the salvation he will offer to all those who are baptized with him.

After the Holy Spirit descended, a voice came from heaven: "You are my Son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased." There's no indication that anyone other than Jesus heard these words. Luke also makes it clear that Jesus heard these words while he was praying. In the moment of prayer, the Holy Spirit descended upon him-not out of the blue, not like a lightning strike, not without preparation or openness. Jesus was praying, centering his life in the presence of God in a very intentional way; and it was then that he heard the voice from heaven. We will see this happening over and over in Jesus' life, praying at moments of crisis and discernment and times in between.

The Holy Spirit isn't just anything we imagine. The Spirit descended on Jesus in bodily form, and we see the Spirit moving in the life of Jesus. Luke insists on keeping Spirit and body together. We heard this theme while Jesus was still in the womb when his mother Mary sang a powerful song of praise to God, "My soul magnifies the Lord,' she sang, 'and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior." Then her song goes on in praise to God with words that have everything to do with bodies:
You have shown strength with your arm, and have scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.  You have brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly. You have filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.

And as Jesus' baptism is a response to his Father's call and indicates the form his life will take, so all those who are baptized are called to be in Jesus' mission to the world. That mission cannot happen unless our lives are newly formed, divinely shaped after the image of Jesus Christ who is the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15).

As we remember Jesus' baptism, let us all remember our baptisms and be thankful.

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