Choose a topic from Part 3a:

39. The Baptizing of Christ by St. John the Baptist

1. Our Lord needed no baptism of any kind. But he receivedthe baptism of St. John, ordering the Baptist to proceed when hehumbly and reverently expressed astonishment that Christ shouldcome to him for baptism (Matt. 3:13-15). Christ was baptized, saythe fathers, to sanctify the waters that they might henceforth beworthily used for cleansing from sin in Christian baptism. And asour Lord was to make baptism a required sacrament, so now he set anexample to men by receiving the outward form and figure of thereality that was to be.

2. Our Lord was baptized by St. John the Baptist to showhis approval of the rite of baptism and to sanctify it.

3. It was fitting that our Lord, at the age of thirty,received the baptism of John. The age of thirty seems to have acertain perfection. Joseph, the son of Jacob, was thirty when hewas made ruler of Egypt. David was thirty when he began to reign.Ezechiel was thirty when he began to prophesy. And now, our Lord atthe age of thirty begins his public ministry with the receiving ofJohn's baptism. Perhaps the perfection of thirty is inthe fact that it is the product of three times ten, andsuggests the perfect fulfillment of the Law (that is, the TenCommandments) by a living faith in the Holy Trinity. In these twothings the perfection of Christian life consists.

4. It was through the River Jordan that the Chosen Peoplepassed when they came into the Promised Land. It was fitting thatour Lord should sanctify these waters by being baptized in them.Thus he consecrated an element for use in that sacrament whichenables a man to pass into the eternal land of promise, that is,heaven.

5. At Christ's baptism by John, the heavens wereopened. Scripture says (Luke 3:21): "Jesus being baptized andpraying, heaven was opened." There is rich signification here,for the true baptism which Christ was to institute opens heaven tomankind in three ways: (a) by exercising heavenly power; (b) bybestowing heavenly faith; (c) by giving an entrance to heaven. Andthe prayer of Christ at this time suggests the continual need ofprayer in those who receive the sacrament of baptism so that whatthat sacrament confers may not be rendered ineffective bysubsequent sin.

6. When our Lord was baptized by John, "the HolyGhost descended in a bodily shape, as a dove upon him" (Luke3:22). The visible coming of the Holy Ghost indicated whatChristian baptism was to bring invisibly to the soul of therecipient. For Christian baptism was to be, not in water only, butin the Holy Ghost (Matt. 3:11).

7. The dove that came upon Christ when he received theHoly Ghost at his baptism by John was a real dove divinely createdfor this purpose. It was not an illusory image of a dove. But thisreal dove was not an incarnation of the Holy Ghost. It onlyindicated visibly the invisible coming of the Eternal Spirit uponChrist as man.

8. And the Eternal Father gave sensible manifestation ofour Lord's divinity on the occasion of Christ's baptism byJohn. For there was an audible voice from heaven which proclaimed,"This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased" (Matt.3:17). Here the Father's audible words, the manifestation ofthe Holy Ghost in the dove, and the bodily presence of Christ theSon of God, are sensible manifestations of the Three Divine Personsin whose name the Christian sacrament of baptism was to beconferred: "Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizingthem in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the HolyGhost" (Matt. 28:19).

"God commands not impossibilities, but by commanding he suggests to you to do what you can, to ask for what is beyond your strength; and he helps you, that you may be able."
St Augustine

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"This is the greatest wisdom -- to seek the kingdom of heaven through contempt of the world. "
Thomas á Kempis

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"It is well to choose some one good devotion, and to stick to it, and never to abandon it."
St Philip Neri

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