(Adults, you could begin by reading the first paragraph of the reflection to the child, then read the Gospel, and then continue with the reflection.)
We are coming to the end of the Christmas season, but we are still celebrating! The Baptism of the Lord is the last of the 3 Sundays for the feast of Christmas. After hearing about Jesus as a baby for two Sundays, now we hear about Jesus as a grown man. He comes to be baptized in the river Jordan by his cousin, John the Baptist.
The word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
We have heard this part before. Back on the 2nd Sunday of Advent, we heard John the Baptist proclaim. We thought about how proclaiming means both announcing something important and praising God in public about it. John the Baptist proclaims a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. God forgives! This is good, good news. People gather to listen. They begin to get excited. The time of waiting for the Messiah must be over.
As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah,
John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming...He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
The Holy Spirit and fire? The people must wonder what this means. It sounds exciting.
Someone is coming, more powerful than John the Baptist? This is going to be very exciting! What kind of power will this person have?! What will he do? More and more people come to be baptized. They wait expectantly for something exciting to happen.
Now when all the people were baptized...
Here it comes, something is going to happen! Something exciting!
and when Jesus also had been baptized
Here he is, the one more powerful than John the Baptist! Here comes the power!
and was praying...
Hang on. Praying? He's praying?? Where is the excitement? Where is the power? Who is this guy?
This is the way St. Luke tells the account of Jesus' Baptism. Prayer is the detail that he thinks is important. Jesus prays.
But while he prays,
the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove.
And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
Well, this is pretty exciting. Heaven opens, the Holy Spirit is seen, and a voice from heaven is heard. The crowd of people should like this!
The crowd says nothing. There is no reaction at all.
Do they see heaven open? Do they see the Holy Spirit come down looking like a dove? Do they hear the voice from heaven? Maybe not.
We notice that the voice says, "You." To whom is the voice speaking? Not to the crowd. Just to Jesus. This is part of Jesus' prayer, but St. Luke lets us peek into it for just a moment.
If Jesus prays with words, we do not hear them. The words are not important. Instead, St. Luke shows us what happens when Jesus prays. He shows us the power of prayer.
the heaven was opened
Heaven is wherever God is. Often God seems to be somewhere else, separate from us. But when Jesus prays, heaven is opened. Is Jesus on earth separated from God in heaven? When heaven opens, the separation between God and Jesus vanishes. This is the power of prayer.
Does this happen to us, too? When we pray, does heaven open? Are we no longer separated from God?
the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove
Is the Holy Spirit a bird? No. St. Luke says, like a dove. What is a dove like? A dove is beautiful and does not hurt anybody. When people think of doves, they think of peace. When Jesus prays, peace comes upon him. This is the power of prayer.
Does this happen to us, too? When we pray, does the Holy Spirit come down upon us bringing peace?
And a voice came from heaven
Okay, this does not happen when we pray. We do not hear a voice from heaven.
Remember, the crowd does not react. This is a voice that Jesus alone hears. Perhaps, then, he does not hear it with his ears. Perhaps, instead, he hears the voice of God with his heart. Perhaps this is the work of the Holy Spirit who comes down upon him. This is the power of prayer.
The voice says:
You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.
What does this mean?
God tells Jesus who he is: God's Son; he belongs to God.
God tells Jesus he is loved so much it has become his name: the Beloved.
God tells Jesus how God feels about him. God is well pleased.
The voice speaks in Jesus' heart: “You are mine, I love you; with you I am well pleased.” This is the power of prayer.
What does the voice say to us?