The Baptism of Jesus - Theological reflection and Ignatian prayer experience

Matthew 3:13-17 CPDV
Then Jesus came from Galilee, to John at the Jordan, in order to be baptized by him. But John refused him, saying, “I ought to be baptized by you, and yet you come to me?” And responding, Jesus said to him: “Permit this for now. For in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all justice.” Then he allowed him. And Jesus, having been baptized, ascended from the water immediately, and behold, the heavens were opened to him. And he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting on him. And behold, there was a voice from heaven, saying: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

Theological reflection.
One of the puzzles for Catholic theology is that Jesus chose to be baptized by John the Baptist. We know baptism washes away sin, but Jesus was without sin. We know baptism makes us a child of God but Jesus is already the beloved Son of God. One explanation takes account of the place where John was baptizing and the name of Jesus. The water of the Jordan was considered by the Jews to be ritually unclean; it was not suitable for a purification ritual, but it was the river that Joshua had lead the Jewish people through to enter the Promised Land. 'Jesus' and 'Joshua' the same name - a name that means 'Yahweh saves.' John the Baptist is calling the people of Israel back to the moment of their founding as a covenant community and nation. He is inviting them to go down into the Jordan and enter the land of promise anew. Jesus hears this call, accepts the idea, sees it as the way to fulfill all justice and guided by his own name goes to the Jordan to be baptized hoping to lead the people of the new covenant to follow him.

Ignatian prayer experience.
St. Ignatius of Loyola encouraged us to use our imagination as a way into prayer. Invite the Spirit to be with you as you begin your prayer. Open your imagination to the freeing action of the Spirit. Pay attention to your inner senses of sight, smell, taste, touch and hearing, as you imagine being part of this Gospel scene. Take your time. 

Go with Jesus to the Jordan River. Be with him as he recalls how Joshua led the Jewish people through the Jordan to enter the Promised Land. Sense the connection Jesus has with his ancestors in faith. Accompany Jesus as he approaches John for baptism.

You find yourself going down into the waters with Jesus. Be aware of how you feel and what you are thinking. Just as Jesus experiences himself as beloved Son, be open to the depth of God’s love for you. 

What is the Promised Land, the new life Jesus is inviting you to enter? 

Stay in the company of Jesus for the rest of your prayer time.
 

Prepared by 
Merv Duffy S.M. mervduffy@gmail.com 
Clare O’Connor, Cenacle clare@cenacle.org.nz