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January 8, 1993

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1993 The Message Monthly -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana 11 By FATHER i DONALD DILGER - GOspel Commentary for Sunday, Jan. lO, : 1993, Feast of the Baptism of Jesus,Cycle A: Matthew 3:13-17. baptism is included in the words and acts of Jesus by and Luke. The Gospel of John ies Jesus' baptism and maybe not even is the earliest gospel. We assume he  about 70 A.D. He describes Jesus' baptism stating that Jesus was bop- River by John the Baptizer, so se that was his ministry. As time goes that Christian theology was not at peace simple statement of Mark. Things get ore curious as time moves on. The ;pel of Matthew, today's reading, is with stating that John the Baptizer Jesus. As Matthew describes it, John that it was rather he that ought to be Jesus instead of the other way around. had to order John to baptize him. is even more curious. As he the Baptizer was imprisoned by se he publicly rebuked Herod is only after John is imprisoned Jel of Luke Jesus comes to be bap- way Luke entirely avoided saying by John. He didn't have to avoided it by clever arrangement. of John, which is still later, makes no esus being baptized by John. Interest- fact that the Gospel of John tells us s had his own baptismal ministry. A later h" like this statement and editorializes eSus Zmself did not baptize, only his disci- The Baptism of Jesus: Matthew expands Mark's gospel ples did the baptismal work. What's going on here? Our first gospel, Mark, is very straightforward. Even though Mark begins his gospel by stating that Jesus is Son of God, this does not cause him to dance around the human- ity of Jesus like the other gospels. He is straight- forward. Not only is Jesus baptized like other people, the Marcan Jesus gets quite angry, speaks rather crudely at times, and is abandoned by everybody, including his own mother and family. Mark does have theological reasons for writing like this. Matthew and Luke cannot handle such forth- rightness and what they obviously consider / lack of reverence toward Jesus and his close asso- ciates. To them it was not proper for the greater to be baptized by the lesser, that is Jesus by John the Baptizer. Thus Matthew has Jesus command- ing or permitting John to baptize him, while Luke just can't bring himself to say that John baptized Jesus. There were probably hundreds, maybe even thousands of disciples of John the Baptizer who considered John, now long dead, to be the Messiah. Messiahship was claimed for Jesus by the Christians, not for John. To have John baptize Jesus would imply that Jesus was one of John's disciples and would only enhance the stature of John in contrast to that of Jesus. Not only does this concern become evident in the stories of Jesus' baptism, but throughout all four gospels John is put in his place again and again by the theologians who wrote our gospels. Here ourconcern is the Gospel of Matthew. The story goes on to describe, as in Mark and Luke and partly in the Gospel of John, how the Spirit of God descended upon Jesus in the form of a dove. A voice from heaven proclaims: "This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased." Here, too, we see an interesting change. In Mark the voice speaks only to Jesus: "YOU are my beloved Son." Matthew changes this to: "THIS is my beloved Son." Thus we see that Matthew not only emphasized the primary role of Jesus in contrast to the secondary role of John. He also proclaims for his readers that Jesus is Son of God. We need to ask: what does all this mean for us who hear and read this story in the twentieth century? We are not concerned with John the Baptizer being Messiah, nor do we doubt his sec- ondary role. We also proclaim with Matthew the divine sonship of Jesus. Beyond this original in- tent of Matthew, we may interpret this story by putting ourselves in the role of Jesus. This gospel asserts unity between Jesus and us: "What you have done to the least of my brothers and sisters you have done to me." If Jesus received the Spirit of God in baptism, so does every Christian. This realization must incline us to respect the presence of God not only in ourselves through baptism, but his presence in all the baptized. We can go even beyond this. We cannot exclude the presence of the Spirit of God in the non-baptized. God's Spirit can be present in his human creatures in other ways than baptism with water and the Spirit, as is clear from the examples of holy people through- out the Old Testament and today. Let us respect God's freedom to give his Spirit when and how he pleases. Other readings for Sunday,/an. 10: Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7; Acts 10:34-38. :r :. . "Father Donald Diler Following are excerpts b of God: John the and his by the frequency with s his testimony to Jesus in the Sunday 1 Baptist s witness to Jesus in the Gospel of John. Jan. 24: Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A: Matthew 4:12-23. The Ministry begins: the Kingdom of God. Like Elijah the prophet, when he was prepar- ing to be taken up, Jesus chooses disciples .... This is the lesson which Matthew wants to leave us in today's reading, the readiness to follow in ourselves and others. Jan 31: Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A. Matthew 5:1-12. The Beatitudes: A Pro- gram far Sanctity'. The covenant law of Kxodus opens with the commandments and a threat of punishment. Not:; so the new covenant law. 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