“He was like us in every way but in sin,” we often hear about Jesus the Christ. Today in the Catholic Church we celebrate the Baptism of Jesus with a reading from Luke (3:15-16,21-22).
The people were filled with expectation,
and all were asking in their hearts
whether John might be the Christ.
John answered them all, saying,
“I am baptizing you with water,
but one mightier than I is coming.
I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
After all the people had been baptized
and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying,
heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him
in bodily form like a dove.
And a voice came from heaven,
“You are my beloved Son;
with you I am well pleased.”
On what do we dwell in this reading? How about the shared act of baptism? Jesus was the Son of God, yet He humbled himself to share in every experience of humanity save sin, including being baptized. Of course, His baptism was in the Holy Spirit, and in being so, He ushered in a new opportunity for all of us to also be baptized in the Holy Spirit.
The priest in the televised Mass this morning focused on the words in the reading, “heaven was opened.” You might think that meant that in that moment the heavens opened and the Holy Spirit descended like a dove upon Jesus. But think about it also as a metaphor for how Jesus opened heaven for the rest of us when He died on the cross and then rose again and forty days later ascended into heaven, leading the way for our own entry to God’s kingdom.
We could also focus on the words, “‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.'” After thirty years of living in human form, Jesus is baptized and begins his ministry, and the Father is well pleased. Pleased in His son’s life, pleased in His son’s passion, pleased in His son’s move forward into ministry. Perhaps even pleased in the world His son will refashion in His own image.
Jesus the Christ is God come to us in human form. He lived as we lived to share our humanity. He met us more than halfway, He met us full on, even facing temptation though He never gave in to it. And to send Jesus on to show us how make ourselves to be better humans, the Father blessed his only begotten son with a loving message: “With you I am well pleased.” Imagine how well pleased he is with us when we emulate Jesus, who commands us to love God and love one another — and act accordingly.