Reading: Matthew 3:13-17
Verse 16: “At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.”
Our gospel lesson this week is about baptism. In our reading, Jesus comes to John the Baptist as he is preparing the way, preaching repentance and baptizing out in the wilderness. John tried to deter Jesus initially – he recognizes that Jesus does not need to be baptized. Jesus insists, saying, “It is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Jesus is setting an example. He is preparing himself for a ministry that is about to begin. For each who is baptized, it is also an entry point into a life of faith.
Coming up out of the water, Jesus is changed. In verse 16 we read, “At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.” The Holy Spirit descends and becomes a part of the human Jesus’ life. In almost all Christian denominations this is part of our understanding of baptism too. Through the waters of baptism the Holy Spirit enters into that person’s life, beginning the lifelong transformation process. The change wrought in the individual’s life is not done by the power of the water that has been blessed or by the human words spoken in the baptism. The power is found in the Spirit that descends and indwells that person.
It is the power and presence of the Holy Spirit that then guides our lives, helping us to see and hear and live differently. It is the Holy Spirit that transforms us and opens us up to living as a witness to Jesus Christ’s love in the world. In living a life of faith, God also speaks the words of verse 17 over you and me: “This is my son, [this is my daughter], whom I love; with him [with her], I am well pleased.” May it be so.
Prayer: Lord God of the Holy Spirit, through the sacrament of baptism you draw us in and make us part of your family. Your Spirit becomes a part of who we are at the core. In birth we are created in your image. Through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit we come to reflect your image and being to the world. Help us to do this well. Use us in ways that reveal your saving love to our world. Amen.