Lectio Divina for the Baptism of the Lord, Jan. 10, 2021
This is what John the Baptist proclaimed:
“One mightier than I is coming after me.
I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.
I have baptized you with water;
he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
It happened in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee
and was baptized in the Jordan by John.
On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open
and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him.
And a voice came from the heavens,
“You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
One mightier than I is coming after me
We live, as Christians, in a constant state of hope. We look to the wrong things to sustain that hope sometimes, but we hope for things to happen, often beyond our understanding, nonetheless. Many speak of the Second Coming of Christ as the way in which God will administer justice to the world. We cannot know the ways of God, but knowing that all power in heaven and earth has been given to Jesus is a helpful piece of wisdom to keep in mind. John the Baptist was constantly deferring to Jesus, pointing to Christ, not himself, as the ultimate source of mercy. If only more leaders did the same. If we are ever put in a position of influence, it should serve us well to remember that we have no power except that which God has given to us. If God has given it to us, he has entrusted it to us; he has trusted us to use that power to draw people closer to him. Also, if he has given it to us, he can take it away. John the Baptist not only knew this. He looked forward to stepping aside and making way for Christ. Jesus entering his life to be baptized was a sign that his task was complete and that he did it well. Let that be a testimony and example for any leadership roles we play in life: that we may lead people to Christ and then step aside.
he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit
St. Maximilian Kolbe said the Holy Spirit is the conception that springs forth from the love between the Father and the Son. This is the missing element in so many of our spiritual lives: love. When people came to see John and asked “Who are you” it’s as if they were asking, “What are we missing?” and John’s answer was “love”. It is the same message Jesus has when he says love is the fulfillment of the law, and when St. Paul says, “if I have not love, I am nothing,” and when John the Apostle writes, “God is love”.
You are my beloved Son
The divinity of Jesus is made evident here. God the Father is not adopting Jesus in this moment, but rather revealing to the ages that this is indeed his one and only son. Jesus did not have to be baptized, but through his example here we are given the archetype and essence of baptism. It is through baptism that we also become sons and daughters of God. As he would do through his entire earthly ministry, Jesus invites us into the family of God by leading the way.
with you I am well pleased
In the Epiphany narrative we read that Jesus grew in favor with the Lord. In the baptism of Christ narrative Scripture continues that theme. Why is there so much emphasis on the favor that the Father shows the Son? Knowing Jesus, or at least hearing about him and the Gospel stories most of our lives, we may take this favor for granted. Jesus is the new Adam coming to establish a new creation where there is freedom from sin. After God created Adam, he saw that his creation was “very good”. His declaration that he is well pleased with Jesus parallels Genesis in that way. God is saying that the stain of original sin can now be washed away, and he can begin his work on the new heaven and earth through his son Jesus Christ. He has cleaned the table and reset it after we made a mess of it. But the world is still a mess, you may say. That’s because there are still many who are yet to give their lives to Christ so he may live through them. Let’s be among those who do give our lives to Christ.
Lord, we give our lives to you so we may be baptized with the Holy Spirit, filled with your love. Only in that way can we enter into your kingdom. We are frail, but we come to you in humility, hoping that you lead us to paradise. We pray for the courage to unite our sufferings to yours on the Cross, and come before you as servants of your will. Do whatever you need, Father, to make our lives overflow with an abundance of your grace so we may be a gift to others. Making us your sons and daughters is the best gift anyone can offer. Help us to lead others to you so they may receive that gift. Many of us have already received the gift of baptism, but have failed to recognize how amazing it is. If that’s the case, help us to explain its significance in a way that fills those who have received the gift with joy. Through the intercession of your mother, the Immaculate Conception, the intercession of John the Baptist, and in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we pray. Amen
One of the great traditional practices of the Church is the daily Examen. It’s when we examine our conscience and acknowledge when we failed the Lord and ourselves throughout the past day, and also when we succeeded in doing his will. Gratitude is also a valuable part of the Examen prayer. However, perhaps the most important aspect is the quiet. It's time to slow down and listen. Let the concept of the Examen prayer be your structure for listening to the Lord in today’s lectio divina. Through the gift of baptism, God has made us a new person. Let God work through the graces of that sacrament, as you decrease like John the Baptist and let the spirit of God descend on you like a dove.
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