The Baptism of the Lord
Throughout the scriptures, we get to witness the dramatic event of the ‘heavens being torn open.’ It can be a unique and frightening event that manifests God’s very presence among us. We can call to mind the story in Exodus of God’s coming to Israel on the mountain of Sinai where they received the Law: God came as fire and smoke. The people were afraid to approach the mountain, lest they die. In today’s Gospel, however, this tearing open is one of tenderness and love: “You are my beloved Son; with you, I am well pleased.” What has changed?
In the Garden of Eden, God walked with Adam and Eve in peace and with intimacy. But in pride, Adam and Eve fell, and that peace and intimacy were broken and damaged, bound now to fear and dread, “let us not approach him, lest we die!” However, God desired not to be a God of fear that brings death, but a God who brings life. To accomplish this, he sent his Son to bear our burdens, atone for our sins, and be a pleasing offering to his Father on our behalf. This took humility, the opposite of the pride that hurt us initially.
Not needing baptism’s forgiveness, Christ bows to John and the law to accept the humility of service and authentic leadership. He was willing to do what we were unwilling to do: submit to the Father’s will. In that action, and all the efforts of his life saved us and brought us back to that peace and intimacy.
To remain there, we must imitate Christ in his humility. How can we do that? We can do so daily by reminding ourselves of the need for humility by reciting the Litany of Humility. We can do so by daily writing out what we are grateful for that day and see all the hidden gifts God has given us. We can do so by frequently going to confession and admitting our need for forgiveness. We can do so by our willingness to serve others in their need by going out of our comfort zones, encountering others’ suffering, and being with them. We can do so by going out and admitting our wrong to those we have hurt and asking for forgiveness.
God desires that we walk with him in peace and in intimacy. Let us not be afraid to have the heavens open; God shows himself to us so that we can hear as Christ hear, “You are my beloved Son; with you, I am well pleased.”
Reflection by Fr. Etienne Huard, OSB