Homily for the Baptism of the Lord - Year A - Mt. 3:13-17
Father Daniel Meynen
"Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him.John would have prevented him, saying, 'I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?' But Jesus answered him, 'Let it be so now; for thus it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness.' Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized, he went up immediately from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting on him; and lo, a voice from heaven, saying, 'This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.' "
"Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him."
The time of the Nativity comes to a close with the liturgical celebration of the Baptism of the Lord. For nearly three weeks, the Church has endeavored to express her faith and hope in the Son of God who came into the world to bear witness to the Power of the Father and to his infinite Love for men. The melodious singing of the Angels on the night of the Savior's birth, the silent yet grand and majestic adoration of the Magi, and today the voice of the eternal Father which was heard at the Baptism of his Son - the Church believes all of this and, in believing, makes it her own, for the Glory of God and the Salvation of the World!
When Jesus went to be baptized, he was about thirty years old. This is what Saint Luke affirms: "Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age." (Lk. 3:23) This is in accordance with the way things are: at thirty years of age, generally speaking, man is mature, and it is time for him to undertake something, if he does not want his life to be wasted... Wanting to be fully man - like you and me - in order to bear all the sins of humanity, Jesus waits until he is thirty years old to finally act and make his appearance before Israel. He could have done it earlier, but then, where would have been his resemblance to us?
"John would have prevented him, saying, 'I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?' "
John knows very well who Jesus is: the Spirit of God helped him to understand. John knows that Jesus is the Son of God, He who is Thrice Holy! So when Jesus approaches him to be baptized as a sign of repentance, John cannot stop himself from exclaiming: "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?" For John knows that Jesus also came to baptize: "He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, 'He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.'" (Jn. 1:33) Truly, John is amazed to see Jesus before him, wanting to be baptized, for, to John, the following was clear: "He must increase, but I must decrease." (Jn. 3:30) Truly, for John, for us, for everyone, this is a Mystery!
"But Jesus answered him, 'Let it be so now; for thus it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness.' Then he consented."
This Mystery will continue to increase. For Jesus will humble himself before John the Baptist, God will humble himself before a man! Of course, John is not just any man: he is the man whom God himself chose for such a mission. But this deepens the Mystery: it is God who wants to humble himself before a man! Now, does all of this not sound familiar? Is this not something we have seen a short time ago? The last time we approached the Table of the Lord to communicate of the Eucharist, did we not see God humbling himself before us? Did we not see God allow himself to be taken in our hands, ground by our teeth, and digested by our gastric juices?
Of course, it is God who wanted it to be so. Of course, it is a sacrament, that is, a reality in which the natural is mingled with the supernatural. But nevertheless, what a Mystery! If Jesus wanted to humble himself before John the Baptist, was it not in order to raise us up to himself as his brothers and sisters, children of a single Father? And if Jesus wants to come into us through the Eucharist, is this not in order to make us participate in his own divine life? By his Baptism, and by the Eucharist, Jesus wants to associate us with himself in order that, together, we might accomplish his Work, each having his own action to perform: Jesus performs his divine act of sanctification, and we perform our human, and supernatural, act of faith in He who is the Almighty.
Jesus humbles himself before John the Baptist, and John baptizes Jesus. Jesus humbles himself before us in his Eucharist, and we truly believe in the Son of God present under the appearances of bread and wine. Each performs his task for the sake of righteousness, in order that the offence to God caused by the sins of the world might be erased, and in order that our faith, thanks to God, might obtain for us the justification and the eternal sanctity of the children of God! "Let it be so now; for thus it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness." (Mt. 3:15)
"And when Jesus was baptized, he went up immediately from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting on him; and lo, a voice from heaven, saying, 'This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.' "
This manifestation of the Holy Spirit and of the Voice of the Father is something that Jesus does not require: Jesus knows perfectly well that he is the Son of God, the Beloved of the Father. But once again, Jesus wanted to be like us, similar to us. Now, we need signs and confirmations when we are confronted with a trial of faith in the Mystery of God. So it is for us, and more specifically for John the Baptist, that the Holy Spirit and the Voice of the Father manifested themselves. This apparition bolstered John the Baptist's faith in the mission that God had entrusted to him. We, too, when we receive Jesus within us during communion, we can receive from God, if he so wills, signs of his presence...
If Mary, the Mother of Jesus, were present at the foot of the Cross of Calvary, when the veil of the Temple was torn in two, when the earth trembled, when the rocks split, when the tombs opened, and when the bodies of many of the just were resurrected, there is no doubt that Mary was also present when the Holy Spirit appeared and when the Voice of the Father was heard... Let us ask Mary to help us to understand a little better this Mystery of the Baptism of her Son: may she intercede for us before Jesus, in order that today's communion might make us holy and righteous, for the Glory of the Father, in the Holy Spirit!