From That Ordinary WaterJan 07, 2022
Leaving the Christmas season behind, we enter into Ordinary Time with the celebration of the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. While the Christmas and Lenten seasons are filled with the preparation and wonder surrounding the momentous events of Jesus' birth and resurrection, the everyday rhythm of Ordinary Time is far more familiar to the human condition.
And yet, despite its ordinary name, Ordinary Time is a unique invitation to intimacy, with the Baptism of Jesus as a great window into the heart of this season. As we move from the celebration of Jesus’ birth and infancy into his adult life and public ministry at his Baptism, the love of God is revealed not as distant but as closely intimate. We see this intimacy on full display on the day Jesus comes walking from the dusty roads of Galilee to the River Jordan, where his cousin, John, was baptizing. Not only was Jesus – as a human being with sandals on his feet –coming to the river, but God himself was walking toward greater communion with us that day.
Years before in Isaiah 40, the Jewish people received a prophecy exclaiming: “A voice cries out in the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”
Not only is John the Baptist the one crying out in the wilderness –the forerunner for Jesus who is both man and messiah –but John is crying out for the one true God of Israel, who has now been made manifest amid the people. God has chosen to be intimate with us in the closest way, by becoming one with us. As we enter Ordinary Time, I invite you to consider the ways that you can find Jesus present in your most boring, trivial, or tiresome days, because God as Jesus, enters into those days just as much as your best days.
The Baptism of Jesus is described in all four gospels, Matthew’s version is:
Matthew 3: 13-17
Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”
Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized, he went up immediately from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting on him; and lo, a voice from heaven, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with him I am well pleased.”
Imagine what the scene must have looked like as John, waist-deep in the water, offering a baptism of repentance looks up to see Jesus walking up to him near the edge of the shore. But Jesus does not merely stand at a distance, he steps out into the water with John, as he does with us, getting down in the physical nitty-gritty of life. For from that ordinary water came an encounter with deep intimacy between heaven and earth.
Just as we need the spiritual waters of Baptism to purify our souls and bring us into the family of God, so too do we need physical water to sustain us, to cleanse us, and to refresh us. Whether it be washing our hands and face in the morning, cooling off with a tall glass of water after a hot run, or taking a steaming shower or bath to relax, water is a necessity in our lives and with Jesus’ example of Baptism, it became a necessity of faith also.
Not only does God as Jesus come to us intimately on earth, using the simple reality of water to bring about his new covenant with us through Baptism, but he also reveals to us the unity of the Trinity with the voice of the Father in heaven and the Spirit descending like a dove over the human Jesus. There were assuredly others nearby who witnessed this amazing encounter with the trinity within their everyday living, just as we experience the Trinity now, in our meditating and study of these scriptural passages on Jesus’ Baptism. Jesus surely didn’t need Baptism, but he chose to set the example for us and to unite himself closer to us in this way.
The Jordan River’s geographical location for Jesus’ Baptism was also theologically significant as the location where the Israelites crossed over to enter the Promised Land after forty years in the desert exodus. Now, Jesus is entering into that same river at his Baptism – the same river that the priests of old had carried the Ark of the Covenant over. Jesus marks a new covenant with each one of us through his example of Baptism.
Pope Benedict once referred to the Baptism of Jesus as the anticipatory act of Jesus as the suffering servant at his passion. At both his Baptism and death, Jesus steps in, when he did not need to, in our place. He does so at his Baptism, and he does so in total fullness on the cross. Jesus desires to be intimate with us through entering the everyday actions of our lives, and he desires to walk with us in what is most ordinary and in what is most trying and challenging daily.
By Allison Ramirez, Spoken Women Team, and Allison Ramirez, author
Photo by Jasmin Ne on Unsplash
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