The Baptism of the Lord

This weekend is Saturday the 11 and Sunday the 12 of January, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, beginning the First Week of Ordinary Time.

Bifrost Arts, with Timbre, sing ‘Agnus Dei’.

In this week’s readings, we have heard some quite amazing accounts of what Jesus did: we have seen him perform miracles, and in particular we have seen him healing people of their sickness and pain and suffering.  We have also heard from St John that “God is love”.  How did you notice yourself reacting to those healing stories?  How do feel about these miracles as expressions of the God who is love?

At the end of the week we heard about testimony, about the Spirit and about faith in Jesus.  How do the scenes you have listened to and prayed about this week affect your faith, and what you believe about Jesus?  Have they made any difference?  Have they confirmed what you already believed?  Have they encouraged you to do anything new, or do anything differently?

One of the unusual things about today’s reading from the Gospel of Matthew is that, in this short passage we hear of Jesus, and the Spirit of God, and – we may suppose – the voice of God the Father: in other words, all three persons of the Trinity, all three persons of the God who is love.

Many see this moment of the Baptism of Jesus as a turning-point in the gospel, the point at which Jesus – who until then might have appeared to be an ordinary man – receives the Holy Spirit and is announced as “Son of God”.  Some even suggest that, for Jesus too, this is the moment when his own sense of who he is, is clarified and confirmed, and he is empowered for his mission of salvation.  How do you imagine it?  Does it feel to you like a momentous event? – a “cosmic moment”? – or  something a little bit “lower key” than that?

John the Baptist expresses surprise that Jesus submits himself to being baptised by him, yet Jesus does submit himself.  There is a certain graciousness in the way these two cousins defer to each other, respect each other – you might say, love each other.  How do you imagine them as they speak  to one another? – their tone of voice, the look in their eyes?

A good number of film-makers have tried to reconstruct this scene. As you hear the scene described once more, try to picture it in your mind – the river (a torrent or a little stream?), the kind of terrain (dry and rocky, or green and fertile?), the people who are there.  What does it all look like, and sound like?

The scene ends with that voice from heaven.  How did you imagine that?  A deep, booming voice like in the movies?  Or something quiet and gentle?   What do you think God’s voice is like?  Do you ever hear it or sense it yourself?  Do you sense God expressing his favour, his love, for you? 

Now it’s your turn, the time for your voice to speak.  Perhaps after spending some time with this scene, there is something you want to ask or say to Jesus.  Or perhaps you want to speak to God the Father about the way you hear his voice.  Or perhaps you want to invite the Holy Spirit to alight, to settle on you, too.   Spend these last moments of the prayer time saying whatever it is you want to say.