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BAPTISM AND MISSION

Read­ing Time: 4 minutes

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Introduction

Accord­ing to the Gos­pel accounts of the bap­tism of Jesus, bap­tism means empower­ment. As mem­bers of the Church, the sac­ra­ment of bap­tism empowers and accom­pan­ies us in our mis­sion of bear­ing wit­ness to the Gos­pel (cf. Luke 4:1). Bap­tism is not a mere form­al­ity or cere­mony. It is a respons­ib­il­ity. It is part of the eco­nomy of sal­va­tion.….…

Both Mat­thew, Mark and Luke report the bap­tism of Jesus. While in Mark and Luke, the voice from heav­en is addressed dir­ectly and per­son­ally to Jesus, in Mat­thew, the voice from heav­en speaks to every­one.[1] In this sense, Jesus’ bap­tism is an epi­phany. That is, it is a mani­fest­a­tion of God in Jesus, who will even­tu­ally mani­fest the Fath­er in to the entire cre­ation. Luke makes an inter­est­ing remark. Accord­ing to him, the Holy Spir­it des­cen­ded on Jesus while he prayed after his bap­tism. This should not be a sur­prise to us because through­out the Gos­pel, Luke shows Jesus always in pray­er and before tak­ing up any ini­ti­at­ive. Jesus with­draws reg­u­larly from the crowds and from his dis­ciples to pray to and seek advice from his Fath­er. Good les­son for Chris­ti­an lead­ers and for all.….…..

John the Baptist objects

Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan com­ing to John, to be bap­tized by him. But John tried to pre­vent him, say­ing, I have need to be bap­tized by you, and do you come to me?” (Matt 3:13–14). When the people were com­ing to him for bap­tism and won­der­ing if he was the mes­si­ah, John the Baptist declared to them “I bap­tize you with water; but one who is more power­ful than I is com­ing; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his san­dals. He will bap­tize you with the Holy Spir­it and fire” (Luke 3:16). John con­fesses he is unable to untie the strap of Jesus’ san­dals, hence, he attemp­ted pre­vent­ing Jesus from com­ing to him for bap­tism. We wit­nessed sim­il­ar incid­ent between Jesus and Peter dur­ing the wash­ing of feet at the Last Sup­per.….….. John can­not pre­vent Jesus from being bap­tized by him because that is how it has been planned to be. The will of God must be allowed to be ful­filled.….…..

The mission of Jesus

It is inter­est­ing how Mat­thew presents the bap­tism of Jesus and the events sur­round­ing it. Accord­ing to Mat­thew, “when Jesus had been bap­tized, just as he came up from the water, sud­denly the heav­ens were opened to him and he saw the Spir­it of God des­cend­ing like a dove and alight­ing on him. And a voice from heav­en said, this is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased” (Matt 3:16–17). The Spir­it of God alight­ing on Jesus indic­ates the source and ori­gin of his power and author­ity. No won­der he keeps say­ing and remind­ing all that he is not speak­ing of his own accord, rather, he is say­ing what the Fath­er who sent him asked him to say. If Jesus is God’s sent, then, there is no altern­at­ive to listen­ing to him. This is the essence of God that declares him His Son and His beloved in whom He is well pleased. The implic­a­tion of God being pleased with Jesus is that he must be listened to because his actions and utter­ances will not be com­ing from him, but God speak­ing and act­ing through him and in him.

Isai­ah in the First Read­ing presents a beau­ti­ful pic­ture of Jesus, the Son of God and con­tent of his mis­sion. Jesus is the one chosen by God and in whom God’s heart delights. He has been endowed with the spir­it of God which is exactly what Mat­thew has emphas­ized. The essence of being endowed with the spir­it of God is to estab­lish justice among the nations. Jesus will accom­plish this task quietly. He will remain faith­ful and can nev­er be defeated by any force. He will open the eyes of the blind, free cap­tives from pris­on and save those liv­ing in the dark. Chris­ti­ans should view their own bap­tism from this per­spect­ive.

Conclusion

As explained above, after his bap­tism, the spir­it of God, which des­cen­ded on Jesus, led him into the desert and was with him through­out his earthly mis­sion. The same thing should be veri­fied in the life of every bap­tised Chris­ti­an. The Holy Spir­it we received dur­ing our own bap­tism should reflect in our speeches, actions and inter­ac­tions with our fel­low human beings, and with the entire cre­ation. Jesus suc­ceeded in his mis­sion because he sub­mit­ted him­self to God and to the Spir­it of God.

The prob­lem of many Chris­ti­ans is they pre­sume to under­stand more than the Holy Spir­it. Unless this error is cor­rec­ted, such people will con­tin­ue to be dis­ap­poin­ted and we shall con­tin­ue to wit­ness more strange things in the vari­ous Chris­ti­an denom­in­a­tions. We should dis­pose ourselves to be guided by the Holy Spir­it, not dic­tat­ing to the Holy Spir­it when to act, where to act, how to act and why the Holy Spir­it should act. This is wrong! Until we estab­lish justice among us, Chris­ti­ans can­not truly claim to be guided by the spir­it of God. We should allow the Spir­it of God take pos­ses­sion of us, instead of we claim­ing to pos­sess the spir­it.

May the Holy Spir­it you received dur­ing your bap­tism assist you and enlight­en your activ­it­ies always. Once more, happy New Year and may God shower you with His bless­ings. Sha­lom!

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  1. And a voice came from heav­en, you are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11); “And a voice came from heav­en, you are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22); “and a voice from heav­en said, this is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased” (Matt 3:17).

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