THEME: THIS IS MY BELOVED SON, LISTEN TO HIM
READINGS: Isaiah 40:1-5,9-11/ Titus 2:11-17; 3:4-7/ Luke 3:15-16,21-22
Feast of the Baptism of the Lord
This theme combines the declarations of God the Father at the baptism of Jesus Christ and at His transfiguration. At His baptism, the voice declared: “This is my beloved Son; with whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17), and then at His transfiguration, it declared: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him” (Matt. 17:5).
CHRIST AND THE BAPTIST
By the time of the baptism of Christ, the ground-breaking ministry of John the Baptist had generated some expectations with some people wondering whether he was the Christ (cf. Luke 3:15). Consequently, the Baptist had to clarify matters. In the first place, he declared that he was not the Christ. Secondly, he confessed that his spiritual status was nowhere near that of the expected Christ: “I baptize you with water; but He who is mightier than I is coming, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Luke 3:16). Thirdly, he acknowledged that he was not worthy to baptize Christ (cf. Matt. 3:13-14). He only agreed to baptize Christ when he got to know that that was God’s will (cf. Matt. 3:15).
MY BELOVED SON
The manifestations at the baptism of Christ revealed His supreme status. Firstly, at His baptism, the Father’s voice declared: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22). Thus, far beyond the Baptist who was only human though a great prophet (cf. Matt. 11:9-11), Christ is the very beloved Son of God. He is thus divine (cf. Heb. 1:1-4)!
Secondly, the descent of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove over the River Jordan recalled the hovering of the Spirit at the beginning of creation (cf. Gen. 1:1-2). Thus, the descent of the Spirit and the voice of the Father identifying His beloved Son revealed the co-existence of Christ with the Father and the Holy Spirit before creation (cf. John 1:1-3).
It is, therefore, no wonder that the mystery of the Holy Trinity revealed at the baptism of Christ would become the very mystery by which we are baptized: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19).
LISTEN TO HIM
Christ, the Son of God, came into the world for a purpose and if that was lost on the people who witnessed His baptism as well as his disciples and others who subsequently witnessed His great ministry, then the Father would speak again. Thus, nearly three years after the baptism of Christ, the Father’s voice was heard again. This took place at the transfiguration. On this occasion, the Father did not simply declare Christ as His beloved Son but He commanded us to listen to Him: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him” (Matt. 17:5).
The Father’s message was meant first and foremost for St. Peter and his colleagues, who though had recognized Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16), did not fully know His mission. For instance, being ignorant of God’s plan for our salvation, St. Peter rebuked Jesus Christ for predicting His suffering, death and resurrection (Matt. 16:21-22). St. Peter was certainly wrong on this account (cf. Matt. 16:23). The transfiguration event was, therefore, to let St. Peter and his colleagues have a glimpse of God’s plan of salvation, and to let them listen to Christ who had full knowledge of the plan and who had come to accomplish the mission of salvation in accordance with that plan.
Moreover, to listen to the Son of God is imperative for all who want to be saved. He came into the world for a purpose – to save us. Now, in a period of a natural disaster, victims need to listen to the rescue officers. Similarly, since Christ has come to save us from supernatural disaster caused by the “earthquake of sin”, we cannot but listen to Him. Hence, the Father, who together with the Son and the Holy Spirit had put in place the rescue plan, instructs us to listen to His Son.
Therefore, beloved, let us listen to Christ through:
- His Church
- His true shepherds (be wary of the many false ministers)
- His written Word
- Family and friends whom He uses as His instruments
- Events which manifest His merciful love, goodness, greatness, etc.
and in our hearts as He speaks, especially during quiet times.
Finally, may our faith in God’s Son be always steadfast and our obedience to His words be constant.
By Very Rev. Fr. John K. Louis