John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29)
With this verse, I reflect on the words of Mass during the Communion Rite when the priest says “Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.” The priest, like John the Baptist, focuses our attention on Jesus.
In the Gospel, we learn that when Christ was baptized, the Spirit appeared coming “down like a dove from heaven.” John the Baptist had been told that the one on whom the Spirit descends will be the one to baptize with the Holy Spirit.
The image of the dove recalls the time of the flood as recounted in the Book of Genesis. After the flood, itself a prefiguring of baptism, Noah sends forth a dove from the ark to see if the earth is dry. The dove symbolizes a new peace on earth, a new creation, when it fails to return to him. If we go back even further to the beginning of creation, we hear that “the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:2). Christ’s baptism signifies a new creation that brings about peace and renewal.
There is a beautiful explanation from the Greek Catholic Church that says, “Christ is baptized, and comes up from the water; he raises up the world with himself, and sees that heaven opened, which Adam had closed against himself and his children. The Spirit, too, proclaims the divinity of Him that was baptized, and a Voice from heaven is heard at the same time. Thus is Christ declared to be the Savior of our souls.”
At the end of the passage John the Baptist proclaims, “Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.” When we see Christ truly present in the Eucharist, remember that Jesus, the God-man, brings us salvation through baptismal waters. And since he also baptizes us in the Spirit, we can call upon the Spirit as our advocate and guide.
The Baptism of the Lord marks the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. Let us pray that we may be responsive and follow his lead in the Spirit by delving into the mission God calls each one of us to.
Come, Holy Spirit!