Season of Light – WEEK ONE: Jesus’ baptism by John21 Oct 2019
Praying with the Luminous Mysteries: Jesuit Communications offers a series of reflections around the five Luminous Mysteries. This week we explore the baptism of Jesus.
Parishes and prayer groups: Feel free to print and share our PDF resource, attach it to your parish bulletin or post it on your parish website or Facebook page: Download Season of Light – Week One PDF.
Gospel readings: Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-23a; John 1:32-34
In the scripture for this mystery, Jesus joins people from all over in undergoing John’s baptism of repentance. As Jesus rises from the water the heavens are ‘torn apart’ and the Spirit is ‘descending like a dove on him’. A voice from heaven anoints Jesus as the Beloved of God, and Jesus receives this on behalf of the entire humanity.
- Richard Leonard SJ encourages us to see our baptism as immersing us in Christ. Do you recognise this reality in your own life?
- He writes that following our baptism we’re sent out to ‘immerse ourselves in the world’. Looking back and looking forward, how has your baptism sent you out to the world?
- If baptism is the beginning of our story with God, how has that story developed for you over your life? What twists and turns has it followed? What point of the story have you reached?
To immerse ourselves in the world
Richard Leonard SJ is the author of Hatch, Match & Dispatch: A Catholic Guide to Sacraments (Paulist Press). He writes of the grace of baptism as sending us out to be immersed in the world.
The Greek word, bapto, or baptizo, means to ‘to wash’ or ‘to immerse’ and that’s why we now encourage the full immersion of adults and children in the Catholic baptism ceremony. You see the action of plunging the candidate into the water is not about the Trinity, even though we invoke them as we do it. It’s about going down into the watery grave three times, to parallel Christ’s three days in the tomb, so as to rise to the new life of Easter and living lives worthy of eternal life.
The first baptism at which I presided was for my niece Emily. I was freshly ordained and gung-ho for full immersion baptism. My uncle, who was a priest, and my family’s local parish priest had recently built a new church with a full immersion font. My mother didn’t think it was a great idea.
‘Why would you distress that child so much with this unnecessary fuss? You always go overboard!’ she said.
That night, while doing some baptismal preparation at my brother and sister-in-law’s home, I got the sense they did not think full immersion was necessary either, so I played dirty.
‘Peter’, I said, ‘you have to know that Mum thinks full immersion is a terrible idea.’
‘Good’, he replied, ‘we’ll do it then!’
On the day, at the big moment, I took Emily in my arms and said, ‘Emily Therese, I baptise you in the Name of the Father –’ and lowered her in and out of the warm water. She thought it was a bath.
‘- And of the Son,’ repeating the action.
‘And of the Holy Spirit’, but this time I cupped my hand and gently poured some water over her head as well and with that, a little of the water went into her eye and she let out a huge scream.
My mother jumped up from the first pew, ‘I told you this was a stupid idea.’ To which my brother sharply retorted, ‘Will you please sit down and shut up!’
We have family fights at baptisms!
There are no half measures about immersion, we are in there boots and all. As Jesus fully immersed himself in our world, so we are fully immersed in Christ. But we’re not spared from the world, as if we’re initiated into a reclusive religious sect. Just as Jesus’ baptism was the beginning of his public ministry, so too, we’re sent out to the world knowing that even though we sin, we are loved by a merciful God and are pleasing to him.
We’re sent out to immerse ourselves in the world and discover that because of his baptism there is not a single place, not even the tomb, where Christ has not gone ahead of us – in the name of the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit.