Today the Church celebrates the Baptism of Our Lord, the first of the Luminous Mysteries in the life of Christ. Let us take a few moments today to reflect both on this particular scene, as well as the gift of baptism for each of us.
St. Mark’s telling is spare but luminous. We read of the Spirit “descending like a dove” on Jesus as he comes up out of the water, and then we hear a voice from heaven declaring, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” In these few lines we are given a glimpse into the life of the Holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Sacred art has captured the beauty of this scene in countless classic paintings. Consider any of these pieces, like Piero della Francesca’s version, as you meditate upon the words of the Gospel, and you will find yourself impressed with a deep, supernatural brilliance. Every painting of the baptism of Christ radiates this special quality of light.
It could be no other way, for in this moment we are allowed to see the coming together of heaven and earth. Christ, though he needed no baptism, humbled himself to receive the waters. When he rises out of the water, the Father’s voice exalts him, declaring him “my Son, the Beloved.” In that declaration is also revealed the love which subsists between Father and Son, personified in the Holy Spirit. Thus, the humble rite of baptism becomes an icon of Christ’s divinity within the Holy Trinity.
Yet what does this mean for each of us?
Baptism is a great grace to every soul, and it is well worth reflecting upon the meaning of the gift. It marks in a very real way the gateway to the spiritual life, or the janua spiritualis. The soul dies to its sinful self, as Christ died on the cross, and is then raised with him to new life in God.
For me, my baptism truly was a doorway into this new life, the life of the Spirit. As a recent convert to the faith, I was able to experience quite keenly the contrast between my life before and after baptism. How rich a treasure it has been!
Before I came to faith, I used to gaze upon the doors of any church with wistful longing. I assumed the doors were closed to me, a non-believer. Even if I had mustered the courage to walk inside, I still lacked the eyes of faith to understand what lay within. Now, having been baptized in Christ, I rejoice in discovering the doors have been thrown wide open.
What do we find beyond the threshold? Hope in eternal life; the cleansing away of our sins; the gifts of the Spirit. Most of all, we are invited into the life of God who is love: love between the Father and the Son, in the Holy Spirit. Today’s Gospel reading reminds us of this beautiful truth, that each soul baptized in Christ shares in the gift of being beloved sons and daughters of God. To step inside the church, through baptism, is to enter into the love of God. Each of us becomes a beloved.
Today, friends, as we honor the baptism of Christ, let us treasure the gift of our own baptism, with all its richness of meaning: as gateway; as an outpouring of the Holy Spirit; and most of all, as a call into the splendor of God’s love for us.