Welcome to the last feast in the Christmas cycle, the Baptism of the Lord. I think of this feast often. In Matthew’s version of the story, when Jesus presents himself for baptism to John the Baptist, John objects. “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?”
Jesus said to him in reply, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John allowed him.
Forgive me for quoting a long footnote from the New American Bible Revised Edition (NABRE) on Mt 3:14-15 but you’ll see why...
“This dialogue, peculiar to Matthew, reveals John’s awareness of Jesus’ superiority to him as the mightier one who is coming and who will baptize with the Holy Spirit (Mt 3:11). His reluctance to admit Jesus among the sinners whom he is baptizing with water is overcome by Jesus’ response. To fulfill all righteousness: in this gospel: to fulfill usually refers to fulfillment of prophecy, and righteousness to moral conduct in conformity with God’s will. Here, however, as in Mt 5:6; 6:33, righteousness seems to mean the saving activi¬ty of God. To fulfill all righteousness is to submit to the plan of God for the salvation of the human race. This involves Jesus’ identification with sinners; hence the propriety of his accepting John’s baptism.”
The last sentence: Jesus identifies with sinners. You have heard me preach about this more than once and I suspect that this weekend’s homily will find me saying it again.
It comes down to this. Whatever, and I mean whatever, sin you may have committed, Jesus is standing there saying, “I’ll bear it for you. I don’t want anything to get in the way of you going to my Father.”
Just to put icing on the cake, Matthew, Mark and Luke all talk about the voice of the Father being heard, and saying, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” In John’s gospel, we hear John the Baptist say, “I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from the sky and remain upon him.”
And here is another footnote; the dove is a symbol of new creation. And the footnote goes to remark about another word:
“Remain: the first use of a favorite verb in John, emphasizing the permanency of the relationship between Father and Son (as here) and between the Son and the Christian. Jesus is the permanent bearer of the Spirit.”
Sometimes we just miss the treasures that can be found in footnotes.
I also want to put in a commercial for the bible I referred to above. It’s wonderful to have a beautiful bible sitting on the coffee table, but they are usually too heavy to carry around with you much less pick up in a spare moment.
I cannot stress enough that the Catholic Study Bible published by Oxford University Press is a wonderful book. In addition to being the version of the scriptures that we read on Sunday (NABRE), it also has a clear and uncluttered introduction to the Old and New Testaments. You can get it in paperback. It still costs too much, (+ or - $35) but think of it as a very good deal for an excellent meal. And it wouldn’t be a bad gift to give kids. For another few bucks you can buy tabs for the paperback and the kids can have fun putting the tabs in the right place. (That should keep everyone busy.)
I had no idea this was the Twitch I was going to write until I began and it sort of flowed out. Bottom line: think about it. He is born into this world to be among us. The child grows up and then his heavy lifting really begins... for us! ...all because He wants us for eternity. That's real time.
Happy New Year!