The Baptism of Christ by Bartolomé Murillo, 1655.
Feeling unworthy, St. John the Baptist baptized Jesus in the River Jordan only with the insistence of the Sinless One, who was dying not to His sin but to take on ours. No wonder Pope Emeritus Benedict speaks of the cross of Jesus in the shadows as the baptism takes place. Like a good novel in which the first sentence contains the kernel of the conclusion, so Jesus’ first breath of public life, begun with his baptism by John, contains that essence.
Of course Jesus did not stay submerged. He rose to take another breath and so began his public ministry from which we draw salvation and hope. He would of course rise again – this time three days later from his cruel death – this time to take a breath that is eternal, a breath that would be breathed onto his first apostles that first Easter evening.
St. Matthew tells us that Jesus came up to the sound of the clear voice of the Father: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Thank you, Jesus, for taking the plunge for us. In our Baptism, we are joined to both events of your blessed life: the death under water and the rising from the depths – the sacrifice of the cross and the rising on Easter morn. How good, through adoption, to be called “beloved.”
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz
(Reprinted with permission. Give Us This Day: Daily Prayer for Today’s Catholic, January 2014