by Fr Christopher Maseko
Now that we have completed our Christmas Octave celebration and have also celebrated the Epiphany of the Lord, we begin to turn our eyes to Jesus’ public ministry. He begins it with his baptism by John the Baptist at the river Jordan. Sent by the Father to overcome evil with good, to proclaim the will of God, to face jealousy, persecution and death.
It was for this task that Jesus was strengthened at his baptism by the Holy Spirit. The feast, therefore reminds us of our own baptism and confirmation. Being a good and faithful Jew, Jesus does not singularize himself in any way. Since all the people had had themselves baptised, he, too, would have himself baptised. Christ sanctified the waters of baptism. The water of baptism, by the power of Christ who himself is baptised in it, calls back the dead to new life. In the story of the flood, there the dove carrying the olive branch in its beak brought solace to Noah and his family, because the flood was over. Here at the baptism of Jesus the Holy Spirit coming in the form of a dove reveals to us our merciful saviour.
We are told that at the significant moment Jesus was praying. It is his first action during his public life and it is during prayer that the Holy Spirit comes down upon him. Yes, praying is making room for the Holy Spirit. What is the place of prayer in our life?
We are told that at the baptism of Jesus “the heavens opened”. A communication is set up between heaven and earth. The havens are no longer closed but open and the Spirit of God is given to Jesus before being poured out abundantly on all those who in the future will be baptised in the Holy Spirit. What place do I give the Holy Spirit in my spiritual life?
A voice was heard from heaven – it is the Father speaking and he said; “Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased”. God the Father gives testimony to the fact that Christ being His Son is the true Saviour of the world. From this passage we can deduce that we have a Father and a Father who delights in us. This is the heart of the Christian message. God loves us, we are precious to him, we are very important in His eyes.
Perhaps, sometimes, we have some doubts in our mind, we hear voices within us – the voices of some people and they said in the past. “You are no good”. “What you said was stupid”. ”You shamed the whole family”. And among these voices, you may hear your own voice, saying: “I can’t do anything good”. “I am not clever and I never succeed”. We look at ourselves as if our value or our own worth depended on such judgements of others. But God does not see as men see. He does not judge as people judge. He looks on us with eyes of mercy and compassion.
This may surprise you but, each one of us, God speaks the words He spoke over Jesus being baptised in the river Jordan; “Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased”.