Of all the
Solemnities and Feasts of the Christmas Season, the Feast of "The Baptism of
the Lord" is the only one where Jesus appears in the gospels in the full
maturity of adulthood rather than as an infant or even as a young boy. Jesus'
Baptism in the Jordan River inaugurates his mission. It will be the mission of
the "mature" Lamb of God, and sub-"mission" will be key. Intercessors
need to be formed in this maturity of the humble, submissive Lamb for his
ongoing mission in the world today. The Baptism of the Lord is also the first
Luminous Mystery of the Rosary. It certainly 'sheds light' on the heart of
Jesus, and it begins to 'unveil' for us the purpose for which he has come.
Jesus is Gift. He is our "Christmas Covenant" with God: This "Christmas
Covenant" will be forever sealed in the Blood of the Lamb.
River holds a significant place in the history of Israel. By crossing the
Jordan River, the people of Israel entered into the Promised Land. We read of
this in The Book of Joshua. This crossing-over involved the Ark of the
Covenant (which contained the presence of God), the priests and the people:
all Israel crossed over on dry ground, the priests carrying the Ark of the
Covenant of the Lord remained motionless on dry ground in the bed of the Jordan
until the whole nation had completed the passage" (Joshua. 3:17).
Centuries later Jesus, who is both the High Priest of the
New and Everlasting Covenant and the very Presence of God, immerses himself in
the same river. This immersion, freely chosen and in obedient submission to the
Father, is oriented toward the renewal and restoration of humanity. It is a
humble surrender of self. At the Jordan River Jesus identifies with sinful
humanity. On Calvary he will die for sinful humanity. On the cross he will
'remain motionless' as the paschal Victim until the 'whole world' (rather than
the whole nation) completes the "Passover passage". "The baptism in Jesus' life
both announces and prepares for His baptism in blood" (Dictionary of
Biblical Theology. "Baptism", p.41): "There is a baptism with which I must
be baptized…" (Luke 12:50).
"lowers" itself in the world. God calls intercessors to journey from 'spiritual
infancy' to 'spiritual maturity' by the willful--sometimes crucifying--choices
we must make in order to identify more humbly, compassionately, and lovingly
with humanity. This is a mission for the mature. Jesus takes his place
among sinners at the Jordan River; he will take the place of all sinners on the
cross. For the Lamb of God there is an essential connection between solidarity
and Calvary. He who has no need to repent of sin nor to confess sin, chooses
to identify with those who do. With a heart set in "self-emptying solidarity",
Jesus identifies with us in our desperate need to the point of substituting his
life for ours on the cross: "No one has greater love than this, to lay down
one's life for one's friends" (John 15:13).
intentional abasement at the Jordan River reveals a most profound, heart-felt
understanding (a "saving solidarity") of our dire need as sinners, reveals a
deep humility, and an eager desire to empty himself for our salvation. He has
no need to be "washed", yet he chooses freely to do so. Later, we will be
washed clean in his Blood. He has identified with us fully; he has offered
his life for us freely. He who lowers himself into the Jordan will be
lifted up on the cross. Jesus is the "Jordan companion" of suffering, sinful
humanity. Everyday, intercessors have opportunities to choose a self-emptying
solidarity for the sake of suffering, sinful humanity in union with Jesus. Each
time we make the choice to love, to forgive, to exercise mercy, we--in a
sense--"join Jesus" in the Jordan River: This mystery in the life of Jesus
becomes more fulfilled within us.
There is a
story in St. Luke's Gospel of a Pharisee who enters the temple to pray at the
same time as a tax collector. Luke writes that Jesus "addressed this parable to
those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else"
(Luke 18:9). The Pharisee speaks this prayer to himself, "O God, I thank you
that I am not like the rest of humanity" (Luke 18:11B)---but, Jesus is like the
rest of humanity! The Pharisee's words reveal a heart that has separated
itself, distanced itself from the rest of humanity (whom he holds in contempt).
The Pharisee sees himself in contrast to, in opposition to, and above the rest
of humanity. He willfully steps out of an interior sense of communion with his
fellow human beings and unknowingly steps out of communion with God. In a
sense, he "excommunicates" himself both from God and humanity. Hence, his
'prayer' is not really prayer at all.
There is a
core compassion and an indispensable empathy that intercessors are called to as
an essential part of our lifestyle ministry. This is found in the heart of
Jesus. We all have to be purified and purged of prejudices and harsh
condemnations of others in order to identify more closely with suffering, sinful
1)What are some of my core prejudices
(where I place harsh judgment on others)?
2) Whom am I
being invited to 'identify with' more closely inmy life?
Any scripture cited in
the text; Heb. 2:14,17; Luke 18:9-14; Mark 1:40-41; Mt. 5:43-48; Luke 6:37-38;