In the course of his preaching John the Baptist said, ‘After me is coming someone who is more powerful than me, and I am not fit to kneel down and undo the strap of his sandals. I have baptised you with water, but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.’ It was at this time that Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptised in the Jordan by John. And at once, as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit, like a dove, descending on him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on you.’
One of the actions that I find most consoling about the scene in today’s Gospel is that John the Baptist immersed Jesus in the waters of the Jordan. Indeed the word “baptism” is derived from the Greek word, “bapto”, to wash or to immerse. Most of us were baptised with just a sprinkling of water.
There are no half measures about immersion, we are in there boots and all. In an extraordinary visual metaphor, Mark tells us this is what God does for us in Christ. We don’t have a detached God who only presides over us. We don’t have a coaching God who sits on the sidelines barking orders at us on the field of life. And we don’t have a policeman God who wants to catch us breaking the rules. We have a God who in Jesus the Lord immersed himself in our world, heart and mind, soul and divinity, boots and all.
[Richard Leonard, S.J., Preaching to the Converted, On Sundays and Feast Days throughout the Year.]
Mystical Death and Divine Rebirth: Baptismal Formation
Seeing that Paul centers his spirituality on the Passion of Jesus, one might think of Paul of the Cross as a man entirely concentrated on austerity and suffering. Such is not the case. As Alois Haas has observed, the doctrine of mystical death and divine rebirth anticipate today’s baptismal spirituality, which is based on Romans 6:1-11. The movement of the destruction of the old man in order to give place to the birth of the new man, which is signified in baptism by the act of immersion and emersion from the water, is fundamental for the pedagogy of Paul of the Cross. The Passion of Jesus is always the sign of God’s great love.
[Adolfo Lippi, C.P., Introduction to Volume Three of the Letters of St. Paul of the Cross, p. xii, ]
What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For whoever has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.