‘This is my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on him’
The Baptism of the Lord (Year A)
The baptism of Jesus, who is sinless, is a clear expression of his will to stand alongside sinners in order to bring us the fulness of life. Fr Adrian Graffy reflects.
Matthew 3: 13-17
13 Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptised by John. 14 John tried to dissuade him. ‘It is I who need baptism from you,’ he said, ‘and yet you come to me!’ 15 But Jesus replied, ‘Leave it like this for the time being; it is fitting that we should, in this way, do all that righteousness demands.’ At this, John gave in to him.
16 As soon as Jesus was baptised he came up from the water, and suddenly the heavens opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming down on him. 17 And a voice spoke from heaven, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on him.’
Other readings: Isaiah 42:1-4,6-7 Psalm 28 (29) Acts 10:34-38
The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord brings the Christmas season to an end. The Solemnity of the Epiphany led us to reflect on the mission of the Lord to bring salvation to all nations.
Now we see that mission begin with the reporting by the evangelists of a most significant action of the adult Jesus. John the Baptist, who has been baptising and preaching repentance as well as instilling hope in the people to look forward to the ‘one who is to come’, now comes face to face with the Messiah. Jesus, although he is sinless, nevertheless wishes to undergo with the people the baptism of repentance. It is not surprising that John is perplexed and initially unwilling to comply.
The words of Jesus that they should do ‘all that righteousness demands’ suggest that we are dealing here with the fidelity of the Son of God to enter fully into our damaged humanity.
As in the other synoptic gospels (Mark and Luke) the baptism of Jesus by John is accompanied by a vision and a voice. Jesus sees the Spirit descend on him. It is the Spirit mentioned by Peter to Cornelius in our second reading when he says that ‘God anointed him with the Holy Spirit and power’.
The words addressed to Jesus, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on him’, echo the words of God in the first reading from the book of Isaiah. This passage is known as the first ‘Servant Song’. The prophet presents to us the qualities of true servanthood, qualities which are amply lived out in the life and mission of Jesus. The baptism of Jesus is a clear expression of his will to stand alongside sinners in order to bring us the fulness of life.
How has the celebration of the Christmas season inspired your faith and work?
Why did Jesus seek baptism from John?
We thank God for the incarnation, that the Son of God has taken on himself the joys and sorrows of the human condition.
We pray for fidelity and maturity in living out our own Christian calling to be servants.
Rev Dr Adrian Graffy is a member of the Vatican Commission that takes a lead in Bible scholarship, interpretation and promotion in the Catholic Church.
Rev Dr Graffy said of his five-year appointment by Pope Francis in 2014: “It is an honour to be nominated by Pope Francis as a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission. I feel humbled and very much look forward to being of service to His Holiness and the Church.”
He added: “A great deal has been achieved in England and Wales in recent years by many co-workers to advance Biblical scholarship and the provision of easy-to-use resources. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them and the Bishops’ Conference Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis for their efforts to promote understanding and love of the Bible, particularly through the publication of the teaching documents, The Gift of Scripture and the study guide to Verbum Domini, The Word of the Lord.”
Rev Dr Graffy received his doctorate in Sacred Scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome in 1983. He taught for over 20 years in St John’s Seminary in Wonersh, and is Chair of the National Scripture Working Group, which is an instrument of the Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. Fr Graffy is a past director of Brentwood’s Commission for Evangelisation and Formation and parish priest of Christ the Eternal High Priest in Gidea Park, Essex. Among his publications are the Gospel of Mark and the Letter to the Romans (Alive Publishing).
Listen to BBC Essex interview with Fr Adrian Graffy