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 and at His transfiguration. At the baptism, the voice declared: “This is my beloved Son; with whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17), and at the transfiguration, it declared: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him” (Matt. 17:5).
The great impact of John the Baptist’s ministry of repentance and baptism had generated some expectations and some people were wondering whether he was the Christ (cf. Luke 3:15). Consequently, being a person of very high integrity, the Baptist clarified matters as soon as he got to know the thoughts of the people. In the first place, he said 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).
Knowing that his spiritual status was far below that of Christ, the Baptist would be reluctant to baptize Christ, saying: “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” (Matt. 3:13-14). However, the Baptist eventually agreed to baptize Christ when the latter told him that it was in accordance with God’s will (cf. Matt. 3:15).
MY BELOVED SON
Why, then, is the spiritual status of Christ exceedingly higher than that of the Baptist and indeed that of any creature (human or angelic)? The answer to this question could be discerned from the manifestations at the baptism of Christ. During 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 a great man and a great prophet (cf. Matt. 11:9-11). Christ is the very beloved Son of God.
As the Son of God, Christ is far higher than even the angels (cf. Heb. 1:1-4). Indeed, He is the very Word of God through whom the Father created the world: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (John 1:1-3). He is simply divine!
Furthermore, the voice of the Father identifying Christ as His beloved Son and the descent of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove at the baptism portrayed the co-existence of Christ with the Father and the Holy Spirit before creation. Thus, those who have the “eyes of the Christian faith” would see that the pre-creation mystery of God as Trinity of Persons (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) was revealed at the baptism of Christ.
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 only 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 has full knowledge of the plan and who has 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.
Beloved, we have no one else other than Jesus Christ, “the Son of the living God” (John 6:69) to turn to for our salvation (cf. John 6:68); He alone has “the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). Let us, therefore, listen to Him.
Let us listen to Him through:
- His Church
- His true Shepherds
- His written Word
- in our hearts as He speaks
- in our quiet times as He speaks
- daily events
Finally, let us discern His true voice through our family and friends.
By Very Rev. Fr. John Louis