Our Scripture passage for this Sunday comes from the Gospel of Matthew 3:13–17. Each year we read a different version of this moment in the life of Jesus and gain distinctive insights from the Gospel. This is a passage with which we are all familiar that tells us of the baptism of Jesus by John in the Jordan River. There are some significant elements to this passage that are worthy of our reflection.

The first thing to note is that Jesus chooses to be baptized by Jn. Our Lord’s action is troubling to John because he clearly acknowledges that Jesus is the greater one and that Jesus has no need of repentance. Nonetheless, Jesus desires John’s baptism, and our Lord speaks His first words in the Gospel of Matthew when He says, “It is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” These are important words. Jesus did not need John’s baptism because Jesus had no sin. Even so, Jesus understood that some things are done out of righteousness rather than out of our personal need. Jesus was baptized not because He needed to be cleansed in the waters but because He wanted to give to the waters of baptism the power to cleanse us all! He joined with sinful humanity in a moment of solidarity not because He Himself was sinful but because He wanted to identify with us so as to lead us in the way of salvation. Sometimes we do things not because we need to do them for ourselves but because it is our duty to “fulfill all righteousness” so that others can benefit.

 For whom do you need to be leader in the ways of faith? 

 What do you do in your faith life to set a good example for others to follow?

 Who in your family, friends, or professional life seems to be waiting for someone to give            them a good example to follow, and what can you do to provide that example?

 Matthew tells us that at the moment of Jesus’ baptism the “heavens opened.” That is a significant statement. It means that in the baptism of Jesus there is a new possibility of communication between God and mankind. Indeed, Jesus has opened a new possibility of communication by bringing the compassion and forgiveness of the Father to the world. We now have an access to God that was not possible before Jesus’ life and ministry. The door that was opened in the baptism of Jesus was immediately utilized when the Father spoke. God is constantly seeking to be an intimate part of our lives, and the Lord readily responds when doors are opened. Like Jesus, we can encounter the Lord with greater immediacy and clarity when we place ourselves in a state of openness, vulnerability, and solidarity with those in need. The Father was well pleased, both in who Jesus is as His son and in what Jesus did by being baptized. God wants us to foster that same vulnerability and openness in our own lives. Creating this openness requires humility because we cannot cause God’s self-communication and revelation to us. If we could cause it, it wouldn’t be God. This openness also requires an acknowledgement of our need for God and of our desire to conform our lives to God’s will. Ultimately, the openness that God desires of us is that we trust Him no matter where He leads us or what He asks of us. In our baptism we promise to live such openness as members of the Mystical Body of Christ. This passage reminds us that God wants nothing less than intimate communion with us, and the Lord waits for us to take down the obstacles and barriers of our own construct that prevent such an open relationship of trust and confidence.

When do the heavens open for you in such a way that you experience a privileged communication/communion with God?

What is the connection Jesus makes in your prayer life with God?

For whom do you pray the heavens will open so they can be in deeper communion with God?

Matthew also tells us that the Spirit of God descended like a dove on Jesus at His baptism. That is a direct allusion to Genesis 1:2 where the Spirit of God hovered over the waters at the beginning of creation. In making this connection, Matthew is telling us that there is a “new creation” happening in Jesus (cf. Mt 1:1, 1:18). The waters of Baptism bring about a new creation for all of us. The old order of sin passes away, and we are regenerated to become a new person born in innocence of water and the Spirit.

 What do you think is the newness that Jesus brought to the world of His time?

 What is the newness Jesus wants to bring to the world of our time

 Who are the people who most need a “new beginning” or “new genesis” for their                    lives?

  When have you needed a “new beginning” in your life?

 How can we be people who help others realize God’s mercy and choose to start                    again a new life in Christ?

Baptism gives us all a new beginning as we are “re-born” of water and the Spirit; the Sacrament of Confession is called the “Second Washing” because it, too, allows us to have a new beginning through the forgiveness of sins.

 How has your experience of Confession been a new beginning for you? 

 Oftentimes we need to find a way to establish a new beginning within our relationships (especially marriage) but rather than hitting the “re-set” button, we sometimes find it more tempting to hit the “re-play” button! How does this Scripture passage inspire you to desire a new beginning in Christ rather than “re-play” in anger?

When the Father speaks from heaven, He proclaims Jesus to be “My Son, My Beloved, In Whom I am Well Pleased.” Each of these phrases is a great title that has deep roots in the Old Testament (My Son in Ps 2:7 [David], My Beloved in Gn 22:2 [Isaac], In Whom I am Well Pleased in Is 42:1, 44:2 [the Suffering Servant]). Thus, the Father is establishing the pedigree of Jesus by showing how figures in the Old Testament demonstrated the characteristics that will mark Jesus’ life and ministry. Jesus was ‘pre-figured’ in the Old Testament by these images. In a real sense, we all inherit a certain pedigree and have been formed according to the character of others. Likewise, most of us are responsible for influencing the life of someone else just as we have been influenced.

 As you look at your life, from whom do you get your traits (good and bad)? 

What are the good qualities you are passing on to others?

What are the weaknesses you pray others do not inherit

 If the Father spoke to you as He spoke to Jesus, what three people would He identify              as  the “pedigree” for who you are in His eyes?

How did your father or mother express their pride and love for you? 

Who in your life needs to hear you express your pride and love for them by your                      statement, “You are my beloved son/daughter; in you I am well pleased”?