Grace: To have an intimate knowledge of our Lord, Who has become man for me, that I may love Him more and follow Him more closely.
Reflection: For the past two weeks, Jesus has been preparing. He has come onto the scene, He has gathered His forces, presented His strategy and that of the Enemy. Now, with His baptism, the Divine King begins His campaign to overcome the enemies of His Father, and starts His public ministry.
In starting His public ministry, Jesus announces to the people that the promises that the Father made in the Old Testament to bring good news to the afflicted, set captives free, and give sight to the blind “is being fulfilled today” (Lk. 4:21). The covenant God made with His people is presently coming to fruition, and the hope that it gives is embodied in Jesus. On top of this, the fulfillment of these promises is not a secret to be kept and passed on solely among a select few initiates. Jesus does not hide Himself in some distant place, but goes out to be with us. Jesus begins His public ministry to proclaim the news, and to do so in synagogues, streets, and villages all throughout Judea. He and His apostles will eagerly share this news with anyone willing to listen.
First, however, He takes leave of His mother. Jesus being fully human, it would be completely natural for Him to miss her greatly when He left. Mary, for her part, was about to watch the Son she had raised, cared for, protected, and loved for the past thirty years go off. But for all their sorrow, they both knew that this was the Father’s will, and so they both respond with the total generosity so typical for both of them. This is where the Father’s greater glory lies.
Having left His mother, Jesus goes to the River Jordan to receive the baptism of John. At first glance, it would seem to be an appropriate way for Jesus to begin His public ministry. But John’s baptism is not just converting to a new life in God’s covenant, but also a renouncing of the life of sin and violation of the covenant. In Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict points out that in receiving this baptism, Jesus is identifying Himself with sinners. Understandably, John is reluctant. But Jesus tells him that “it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Mt. 3:15). John knows that he has sinned, and is unworthy to be with the Lord. But Jesus knows that it is exactly for this reason that He must be baptized. As sinners, we have rejected God. Yet God comes to us, stands with us, and is counted as one of us in the fullest sense possible. John then baptizes Jesus, immediately after which the heavens were torn open, the Father and the Holy Spirit were present with the Son, and the Father declared “You are my beloved Son.”
Jesus turns the tables completely, and the Divine King routs the Devil. When Jesus received His baptism, He identified Himself totally with sinners. When we sinners receive baptism, we identify ourselves totally with Jesus, even to the point where the Father’s statement “You are my beloved Son” is applied to us, and we become sons and daughters of God, brothers and sisters to Jesus. The fact that our Divine King is now also our adopted brother makes it even easier for us to follow Him. Now, we can know Him and love Him as one could only do for a brother. Jesus has become our brother so that we may know Him more and love Him more, in order for us in turn to follow Him better. This is the grace that Jesus is offering us, and that St. Ignatius is urging us to pray for throughout the Second Week of the Exercises. The question now is how we should best respond.
Questions: What response does being baptized as a child of God demand from you? How can you use the gift of your baptism to better know, love, and follow Jesus? Jesus chose to adopt you as His sibling. What does this mean for your relationship with Him?