Although it is not among the sorrowful mysteries of the Rosary, we do well in Lent to meditate on the baptism of Jesus. This event, offered to us in the Luminous Mysteries by John Paul II, manifests not only Jesus’ identity as the Messiah but also the Father’s plan of salvation.
John the Baptist’s purpose was to “prepare the way of the Lord”. When asked about his baptisms, he answered that he was merely baptizing with water for the purpose of repentance. But “he who is coming after me is mightier than I…; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” (Mt 3:11)
When Jesus approached John for baptism, John cried out: “This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, for he was before me.’ I myself did not know him; but for this I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” (Jn. 1:30-31) And revealed he was. Immediately following Jesus’ baptism, the Holy Spirit descended on him in the form of a dove and a voice like thunder proclaimed: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Mt. 3:17)
To his own disciples, John pointed out Jesus as the “Lamb of God”. Taking the hint, some of them left John and followed after Jesus. One of them, Andrew, also went off to find his brother Simon, saying: “We have found the Messiah.” (Jn. 1:41) Thus had the Baptizer made the matter clear.
But the one thing John hadn’t wanted to do was to baptize Jesus. John’s baptism was for repentance, and John knew that Jesus had no need of that. Nonetheless, Jesus told him to give in, for “it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” (Mt. 3:15) Judging from the use of the term “righteousness” in some other passages, this statement means that it is right to conform in every way to God’s salvific plan.
But why should the Father want His Son to receive a baptism of repentance? Because the Son was sent precisely to identify with sinners. The essence of the Father’s plan is that the Son should identify with sinners so that sinners might identify with the Son, and so be made heirs to the Father’s kingdom.
The essence of Lent, then, is that we should work hard to identify ourselves with this Jesus who identified Himself with us: This Jesus who is both God and man; this Christ and Lord; this Savior.
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