Grace: For an intimate knowledge of Jesus Christ our Lord who chose to be like us in every way except sin. To be moved with compassion for those in need.
Text of Prayer: Matthew 3:11-17
Reflection: Speaking about the Baptism of Jesus, Maximus of Turin, one of the Church Fathers said: “What sort of a baptism is this, when the one who is dipped is purer than the font … And in which the streams are made pure more than they purify?” The question begs an examination of the meaning and purpose of Jesus’s Baptism.
The importance of this event is manifested in the fact that it is recorded in all four Gospels. The Synoptic Gospels—Matthew, Mark and Luke—have accounts of the Baptism, while John, rather than having a direct narrative simply bears witness to the event. Throughout the centuries, several aspects have been considered about the moment Jesus went to the Jordan to receive baptism from John the Baptist. Commentary on and exegesis of the Gospels reveal that Jesus’ Baptism is the entrance into his public life. His Baptism is also the moment when Jesus is anointed by the Holy Spirit and driven into the desert to pray, fast and be tested. In many ways, his Baptism reveals the path of abasement and humility that the Son of God freely chose in order to adhere to the plan of the Father.
Through his Baptism, Jesus invites us to choose the little and humble way, and to live a life of prayer that allows us to be in touch with the gifts and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. His Baptism also manifests the type of life we ought to live. This is the great insight our Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI, had about Jesus’ Baptism. He received from John the baptism of repentance and conversion. But he did not need it. By receiving this Baptism, Jesus joined all those who recognize their need for forgiveness and ask God for the gift of conversion. Jesus wanted to be on the side of sinners, showing himself in solidarity with them by showing them that God is near. From that very moment, God was in their midst.
By receiving baptism, Jesus showed solidarity to them—as he does to us today—in their effort to convert, to be transformed, to leave our selfishness behind. He chose to be on our side as we labour to rid ourselves from inordinate attachments and detach ourselves from our sins. In doing this, he revealed to us that if we accept him in our lives, he is able to raise us up and lead us to the Father.
Jesus is so truly immersed in our human condition; he lived it to the utmost. He was like us in all things but sin. He knew what it means to be human in such a way that he truly understood our weakness. Because of this, he was moved with compassion. Time and time again, we read in the Gospels that he was moved with compassion and desired to restore us to life in abundance. When he was moved with compassion, he restored someone’s sight (Mt 20:34), or he healed the sick (Mt 14:14). At times, he was moved with compassion because they were like sheep without a shepherd (Mt 9:36). In every one of these accounts, to be moved with compassion meant that Jesus was stirred into action. The Spirit was the one driving him to love, heal and lead the people.
The Baptism of the Lord manifests Jesus’s great compassion towards us. As the Pope Emeritus said in his homily for the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, by being baptized Jesus chose to “suffer with” us. In doing so, the Divine King showed us the way to live our own baptism. Jesus showed us that to be human is to be affected by the Spirit and to be moved with compassion. We are free to choose how we respond to our baptism. Jesus invites us to choose to be on the side of those who suffer. He calls us to be in touch with the Spirit and to be stirred into action when we encounter people who are in need of love, healing and forgiveness.
Questions: How is the Lord calling me to live the way of humility and to be open to the gifts and inspiration of the Holy Spirit?
What does it mean for me to be moved with compassion for others? How can that be my way of life, my strategy to live out my baptismal promises?